Ramadan Health Revolution: The 5 Most Important Health Tips to Follow

IMG_3310 (1)
Oh, hello there. Its been a while, and for this I apologize, but let’s catch up really quickly. Since we last talked, I graduated pharmacy school and will be moving out to Connecticut to complete a year of post-graduate residency. I have a lot of things I want to do in the upcoming months, but first I want to share with you my most immediate idea, The Ramadan Health Revolution.

For those who don’t know, Ramadan is the month in which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. To make it clear, the true overarching purpose of this holy month is not for one to simply starve themselves, rather, to strengthen our closeness to God. By refraining from food and drink, we strive to become more patient, gain greater self-control, be kinder to others, gain a better appreciation of what we have, and much more. As our spirituality becomes healthier, it is a prime opportunity to make our bodies healthier as well.

With that said, before we jump into the article, let me tell you more about what I have planned. On my Facebook page I will upload DAILY WORKOUT VIDEOS. Short, 10 minutes of different types of exercises ranges from high intensity interval training and mobility training to deep stretching routines. Note that these daily workout videos are for anyone and everyone to do at home, not just for those observing Ramadan. Check out the FB page for more information. Now, let’s dive into the article. Here are the most basic and simple, but most important things to keep in mind this Ramadan.

  1. Stay hydrated
    Seriously, I don’t think I need to convince you the importance of water. I will say, though, one glass of water and Rooh Afza does not cut it. In every aspect imaginable, your body does not function optimally when it is dehydrated. Grab a liter bottle of water and keep it by your side from when you break your fast until the next morning. You should try to aim for a minimum consumption of 2 liters of water spread throughout the window of time you can eat/drink.
  2. Eat fiber
    I’m going to feel pretty confident in the following statement: no one likes being constipated. One of the biggest nutritional challenges of being able to eat in a small time frame is getting your proper nutrition. To optimize your bathroom efficiency, make sure to include foods high in fiber for when you can eat. Foods high in fiber include: raspberries, apples, green peas, beans, Quest Bars, and whole wheat food items. Am I the only one that finds it weird raspberries has a ‘p’?
  3. Pay attention to how you break your fast
    In moderation, I’m all for foods like cheesesteak, pizza, and fried chicken. However, although there’s probably never a great time to eat such food items, upon completion of a 16 hour fast may be the worst time. I will never tell you to avoid any foods in entirety, remember the if it fits your macros concept? I will say, however, to minimize your pakora days and try opening your fast with something clean like fruits instead. Also, don’t eat too fast. Remember that leptin, the hormone that tells you you’re full, takes some time to deliver its message. So if you go guns blazing into iftar you are going to overstuff yourself for certain; don’t be tricked by your hunger, take it slow.
  4. Eat suhoor
    Suhoor, the pre-dawn meal, is really important to keep your nutrition in check while fasting. Don’t think of the only function for suhoor to help prevent you from getting hungry. Think of it as a chance to supplement your body with the proper nutrition it needs to function optimally. Protein to maintain muscle mass, fiber to help you poop, carbohydrates for energy, etc.
  5. Exercise
    I’ll have a more in-depth post on exercising during Ramadan soon as I’ve read some good literature regarding exercising while fasting. I will say, though, the most important point when it comes to exercising during Ramadan is making sure you can refuel immediately after exercising. Whether that means timing it right before iftar or doing it later in the evening, make sure you can replenish your body. Upon completion of exercising during a state of fast, your body is starving for nutrients to replenish itself. You want to make sure to give it the nutrients it needs otherwise you may be doing more harm than good from your exercise.

How to Lower Cholesterol Levels

Waking up to an email saying your 8am class is cancelled can be exciting news. Learning you have high cholesterol, not so much. There are, unfortunately, some risk factors for high cholesterol we can’t control, such as age (>45 years for men and >55 for women) and family history of heart disease. Fortunately, there are a lot of modifiable risk factors, such as: smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, and physical inactivity. Before we go into information as to how we can lower cholesterol, let’s get some basic definitions out of the way first.

Definitions

Cholesterol: a waxy, fat-like substance that is found in all cells. Cholesterol helps makes things like vitamin D and hormones. Your body makes enough cholesterol on its own to get these functions done.

LDL: aka “bad cholesterol”, brings cholesterol from your liver to your arteries. Too much LDL is bad because it can cause a plaque buildup which can clog arteries.

HDL: aka “good cholesterol” aka “the homie”, helps remove LDL cholesterol from arteries. Higher the HDL is, the better off you are.

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 12.17.17 PM
Learning how to read a nutrition label is a major key (image used from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/heart/chol_tlc.pdf)

How much can I lower my LDL?

  • Decrease saturated fat to less than 7% of total calories   → 8-10% reduction
    • If you’re really focused on decreasing your cholesterol levels, this may be the big point to start to focus on. When looking at “total fat” on a nutrition label, you may come across saturated fat and/or trans fat; both are bad and can increase your LDL level. No need to go extreme and 100% eliminate it, but definitely limit it.
    • Things high in saturated fat are fatty beef, lamb, pork, butter, and cheese (ugh, c’mon cheese =[ ). Poultry and fish are better alternatives if you’re getting too much excess of the meats high in saturated fats.
    • Read here for a nice summary on saturated fats.
  • Decrease dietary cholesterol to less than 200 mg/day    → 3-5% reduction
    • Do you know what would be a really good way to track this? I’m not sure but there’s this guy who wrote this article who may know.
  • Lose 10 pounds if overweight                                                    → 5-8% reduction
    • A little exercise never hurt anyone. Unless you’re doing crossfit, then I can’t guarantee your safety. Just kidding, crossfitters please don’t unsubscribe, it’s a totally great form exercise (except the extreme versions which sacrifices your achilles).
  • Increase soluble fiber by 5-10 grams/day                           → 3-5% reduction
    • Here’s a nice list with fiber content of different foods.
  • Increase plant sterols by 2 grams/day                                → 5-15% reduction
    • Different things which have planet sterols are:
      • Wheat bran, peanuts, vegetable oils (corn, sesame, canola and olive oil), and almonds
    • If you’re using sticks of butter to cook, replace the absolute deliciousness with margarine infused with plant sterols. You’ll find them in any supermarket.
Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 12.17.54 PM
If you’re concerned on cholesterol, focus on saturated fat intake (image used from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/heart/chol_tlc.pdf)

Ok, what other specific things can I do?

  • Eat a handful of walnuts a day (equates to about 200 calories). In a meta-analysis of 365 patients, those with walnuts as a staple in their diets had a significant decrease in LDL and total cholesterol. Almonds have also shown to reduce LDL.
  • Cook with plant-sterol margarine, such as Benecol brand of margarine. Unsaturated fats, or “healthy fats”, can lower LDL. Benecol has a ratio you want in regards to saturated and unsaturated fats (1.5 vs 6 grams, respectively).
  • Subscribe to FNDfitness.
  • Eat 2-3 servings of fish a week, a recommendation by the American Heart Association. A great source of poly-unsaturated fats (omega-3), an increase in omega-3’s have been shown to be beneficial for heart health and increase HDL.
  • Exercise. Go run, do push-ups, burpees, pull-ups, just do something. Don’t be physically inactive.
  • Eat a Quest bar (still waiting for that sponsorship).
  • Don’t be extreme. You can go ahead and eat a burger or pizza slice, but look over the course of a week and assess what your diet is primarily being composed of. If you look back and you’re downing a few pizza slices every other day or a cheeseburger whenever Donald Trump says something stupid, that’s too often. (NOTE: this blog totally welcomes all people no matter your political affiliation. Seriously, I even used to watch the Apprentice…sometimes….when nothing else was on.)

Most people reading this post, I’m going to guess, are not going to have high cholesterol. Even so, it is something to be cognizant of as it will help optimize your diet and overall health. If you do have high cholesterol, especially if you’re young, fear not. You have the opportunity to make lifestyle modifications and make a difference in your cholesterol levels. Anything I didn’t cover here you want to know more about? Post a comment or message me on my Facebook page. Follow me on IG (FNDfitnessIG) to check out some of my “healthy” meals I make and maybe the occasional selfie.

Also, if you made it this far, I have something good cooking and it’s not the food you see on my IG page…did I mention I have an IG page? I’m making an actual “nutrition plan” titled: “The ‘I have a wedding in 3 months and need to get in shape really quick’ Nutrition Plan”. The title is a work in progress as it’s kind of long (enter joke from Michael Scott from ‘The Office’).  Anyway, keep an eye out for that to be out before the end of March. Peace, love, and pizza (watch the cheese though).

 

References

  1. Your Guide to Lowering Your Cholesterol With TLC”. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. December 2005. Accessed February 23. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/heart/chol_tlc.pdf
  2. Banel DK, Hu FB. Effects of walnut consumption on blood lipids and other cardiovascular risk factors: a meta-analysis and systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr 2009; 90(1):56-63

 

 

 

Do High Reps Get You Toned?

 

“High reps, low weight makes you toned and heavy weight, low reps make you muscly.” I’m surprised as you are that muscly is an actual word. Anyway, this statement, commonly assumed by many people, is a bit more complicated than you think. Kind of like your high school crush that likes all of your Instagram pictures and texts you smiling emoji faces, so you think she has a crush on you, but when you confront her you find out you have been shoveled so deep in the friend zone that even Stanley Yelnats can’t get you out. Yes, that was a total run on sentence and a reference to Holes, that if you caught, virtual high five.

Here are some helpful tidbits of information to know about this topic.

  1. Before we dive in, it’s hard to define what are high/low reps. A nice general reference for the sake of this article can be 1-5 reps is for building strength, 8-12 for increasing muscle size, and 15-20 reps for increasing muscular endurance.
  2. A definition of the word toned: an increase in muscle tissue and a low percentage of body fat to see the definition/shape of the muscle. The road to becoming toned (gaining muscle and losing fat) involves several different factors and can be achieved in different ways. High or low reps can achieve muscle growth, as long as the effort is equal.
  3. What do I mean by equal effort?
    • Let’s say you’re doing 3 sets of both styles, heavy weight/low reps (HW/LR) and high reps/light weight (HR/LW). You’re curling 45lbs for 5 reps (HW/LR). Equal effort is putting the same amount of energy you put into those 5 reps with ‘heavy weight’, with a lighter weight and more reps.
  4. To reiterate this point, to become “toned”, you have to burn fat in the area. You can burn fat by either method, most import thing, is to exert yourself and use up energy #caloricdeficit.
  5. Doing heavy weight/low reps (HR/LW) does seem to have a greater effect on your muscular endurance.
  6. That said, doing HR/LW does not mean you don’t exert yourself. Yes, it’s lighter weight, but you better be doing a lot of reps to the point you have muscular exhaustion at the end.
  7. The best way to increase your strength is by heavy weight/low reps (HW/LR).
    • An easy way to simplify this is by understanding that you will get better at what you do more. This is a totally “no duh” statement, but think about it. If you want to gain more strength, your body needs to push heavier weight (which will naturally force you to do less reps). If you want to increase your muscular endurance, you will need to pick a weight in which you are able to execute a lot of repetitions (which will naturally be less weight).
  8. So which way burns more fat?
    • Whichever way forces you to exert more energy and burn more calories. So whether you do LW/HR or HW/LR if you’re not pushing yourself, you’re not going to see results. Other factors also matter, such as rest time. To maximize fat burning, you will have to lessen rest periods to keep your heart rate up. The expense will be you will not be able to lift
  9. Most important point: incorporate BOTH in your workouts.
    • One is not necessarily superior than the other. Both should be incorporated into a workout regimen. Generally, by incorporating both styles, you can achieve the 3 main goals of weight lifting: increasing strength, increasing muscular endurance, and decreasing body fat. Oh, and looking jacked and Instagraming it #nofilter #whyyoulyin’ #obviouslyafilter. So that’s 4 goals.
  10. To summarize
    • High reps can get you toned…but so can low reps with heavy weight. You get toned by building muscle and losing fat. Both ways can accomplish this.
    • Both styles can cause muscle growth, as long as the effort is equal.
    • Both styles can cause fat loss, as long as the effort is equal.
    • HR/LW helps more with muscle endurance.
    • HW/LR is required for increasing strength.
    • Incorporate both styles into your workout.

      I hope I didn’t leave you confused. If you have any questions or if anything is unclear please feel free to drop a question in the comment section.

      References:
      Jones N. The New Approach to Training Volume. StrengthTheory; 2015 May 12. http://www.strengtheory.com/the-new-approach-to-training-volume/http://www.strengtheory.com/the-new-approach-to-training-volume/

      Shoenfeld BJ, Wilson JM, Lowery RP, Krieger JW. Muscular adaptations in low- versus high-load resistance training: A meta-analysis. Eur J Sport Sci. 2016 Feb;16(1):1-10. doi: 10.1080/17461391.2014.989922. Epub 2014 Dec 20. (website link for summary: http://www.lookgreatnaked.com/blog/does-light-load-training-build-muscle-in-experienced-lifters/)

 

10 New Year’s Resolutions You Can Actually Keep

new-year-resolutions-coworking

Happy 2016! It’s that time of year again; gym memberships skyrocket, gym parking lots get filled up, brand spanking new Nike sneakers, fr3sh new workout clothes (I think that’s how the kids spell “fresh” these days). My personal beef (shameless plug) with New Year’s Resolutions is that there are 364 other days of the year to make a commitment for self-improvement. With that said, since the new year is a universal time people decide to get healthier, I want to give you 10 simple and basic things you can do to become “healthier”. Too often are New Year’s Resolutions too extreme and before you know it, it’s February 1st and things are back to the way they were before New Years. Allow me to hold your hand and let’s take a step by step journey to better health. That got deep and emotional real quick.

  1. Drink More Water
    The Institute of Medicine recommends about 3 liters of water for men and 2 liters for women. Thats about 13 and 8 glasses of water, respectively. Or if you’re a drinker of the regular sized Poland Spring bottled water (16.9oz), that’s 6 bottles for men and 4 bottles for women. My personal suggestion on drinking enough water to reach your goal is to carry around a liter bottle water around with you. That way, you know 3 or 2 refills of the bottle and boom, you’ve hit your goal. Note that for people with certain medical conditions, such as heart failure, this recommendation may not apply for you and you should get a consultation from your doctor or friendly neighborhood pharmacist ;).
  2. Cut Out One Crappy Food From Your Daily Diet
    For me, this used to be croissants…delicious, buttery, warm croissants. I had a croissant , egg, and cheese sandwich everyday. I felt good because I got my protein from the egg and carbohydrates from the croissant. Let’s get real though, as delicious as croissants are, they are nutrient empty and calorically heavy. They were excess calories I needed to cut out to lose weight. Find the heavy caloric, nutrient empty food you can cut out from your daily consumption and you will see a difference after time. Examples of such food/drink items might be: large caramel frappuccino’s from Starbucks, large coffee with cream and 700 sugars, soda, bag of chips, chocolate bar, etc.
  3. Eat a Damn Fruit 
    Multivitamins are a nice way to get vitamins and minerals you may not get through you diet…but the natural way is better. Make a habit of one fruit a day. Apple, banana, orange, whatever.
  4. Start Packing Healthy Snacks
    Healthy snacking is a great way to keep your appetite suppressed so you don’t go down on 6 slices of pizza for lunch or 3 plates of rice for dinner. Fill a sandwich bag with a handful of almonds or walnuts, baby carrots, handful of berries, dry cereal like Fiber One, or whole wheat toast with peanut butter.
  5. Stop Bringing Home Junk Food
    Another personal signature lifestyle change was to tell my mom to stop bringing home Oreos and soda when grocery shopping. If it’s not at home then you can’t eat it. You can save a lot of calories this way.
  6. Track Your Macros
    Haha, you thought I was actually going to go through a blog post without mentioning macros. Here’s my post on how to set yourself up to accomplish this task. Tracking your macros can revolutionize your eating habits and learn how much you really need to eat to lose weight.
  7. Substitute Soda With Crystal Light Packets
    This is specific for the soda drinkers out there who can’t cold turkey soda. It’s okay, I was there before too, I’m here with you. I got through it by using Crystal Light (or store brand alternatives) packets. They are sugar free and typically have about 5 calories a packet. This isn’t a substitute for water, but for those who like to have something sweet with your meal, here you go. Also, no, you are not going to lose brain cells or other weird things from the artificial sweetener, aspartame. I’ll have a post addressing this in the near future.
  8. Do 10 Burpees Every Day
    Here’s a video on how to do a burpee. I don’t care what your fitness level is. Take a break after each one if you have to in the beginning, just get to at least 10. The only way to get better at something is to start from somewhere. Burpees are a great whole body, compound exercise. It’ll help with mobility, flexion, stamina, and strength. If 10 is easy for you then do multiple sets with breaks in between.
  9. Stretch Every Morning
    Here’s a video of a basic 3 minute stretch routine. I would also add  standing toe touches with feet together and feet apart. Sometimes you don’t realize how stiff you are until you do a stretch. Again, in the beginning you might such at stretching, it’s okay. This is something, if done consistently, you will see results quickly.
  10. Realize Progress is a Slow, Stepwise Process
    Seriously, it’s great to have resolutions and even the “new year, new me” stuff (unless you just slap that quote on for a selfie and FB likes, then that’s stupid and take it down immediately). If you’re serious about change and becoming healthier, it’s a SLOW process. Human nature is to want instant gratification so it’s an active mindset necessary to accomplish this. One lifestyle change at a time and they will add up in the long run.

Hello, It’s Meat. I Was Wondering If I Cause Cancer

ADELE EATING

You and I both know the decision to add the bacon (turkey bacon for me) in your burger was not the greatest health decision. The double cheeseburger you decided to order also left you feeling a little guilty. First Monday of the month? 2 free slices of pizza at Planet Fitness, baby.  Do these life decisions mean you need to start your end of life bucket list? Recent headlines shouting ‘RED MEAT’, ‘PROCESSED FOOD’, and ‘CANCER’ will have you thinking, yes. How about we cut the crap and share the facts instead. Using the slogan for my blog as a transition was no where near as cool as I thought that was going to be.

Sounds scary: The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has recently classified processed meat as a ‘definite’ cause of cancer (or Group 1 carcinogen). Cigarettes and alcohol are also classified as a Group 1 carcinogen.

What it really means: These categories are a determinant of how confident the IARC is something causes cancer. Based off of the research these scientists reviewed, they have sufficient evidence to determine consumption of processed foods increases the risk of colorectal cancer.

MEAT CANCER (TRY THIS)
Image used from, http://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2015/10/26/processed-meat-and-cancer-what-you-need-to-know/
Sounds scary: So, since processed meats and cigarettes are in the same classification, are they equally dangerous?

What it really means: No. Having confidence in something is not the same as risk. The best analogy and explanation of this comes by Dr. Phillips, “Think of banana skins. They definitely can cause accidents, but in practice this doesn’t happen very often. And the sort of harm you can come to from slipping on a banana skin isn’t generally as severe as, say, being in a car accident.”[1]

MEAT CANCER POST 2
Image used from, http://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2015/10/26/processed-meat-and-cancer-what-you-need-to-know/
Sounds scary: People who eat 1 serving of red or processed meat per day have a 17% increased risk of colon cancer, compared to those who eat 1 serving per week, according to the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF).

What it really means: Statistics can be scary. A 17% increase sounds like a lot…until you put it into perspective. Lets say we’re directly comparing the risk of cancer from eating red/processed meat once a week verses every day. This direct comparison is called relative risk, but when when looking at the absolute risk we get a better understanding of what this statement means in real life.
About 61/1000 people will develop colon cancer. If all those people underwent a low red meat consumption lifestyle, according to the WCRF, that number would decrease by 17% (so, 17% of 61 is about 10). Therefore, with the low red meat diet, 51/1000 people will develop cancer, 10 less people. Doesn’t sound as significant as the ‘sounds scary’ comment does it?[1]

Sounds scary: If I don’t go vegan, I’m going to die.

What it really means: No. As usual, the truth is found somewhere in between the extremes. There’s nothing wrong with being a vegan. As a vegan, there are still ample ways to intake all of the nutrition you need. In addition, completely eliminating red meat and processed meat in your diet almost surely will reduce your chances of developing colon cancer, but to what extent? Is it worth the major life decision to never ever enjoy a burger ever again? If yes, then awesome, go vegan! For those that enjoy the occasional burger, don’t worry you’re safe. The more reasonable, scientific, and logical message to take from all this buzz is everyone’s favorite 10 letter word, “moderation”. The occasional bacon, burger, and hot dog is probably not going to give you cancer. Downing a pork roll, bacon cheese burger with a large soda, and large fries most days of the week, is definitely going to increase your chance of an early death or disease.

Other stuff you should know: 

  • All this stuff you’re reading on the news, isn’t new. Processed meat was never deemed to be healthy. The recent news is a review of a collection of already published literature. So yeah, this isn’t some great scientific breakthrough.
  • The topic of the dangers of red meat is still more controversial than you think. The Journal of the American College of Nutrition looked at a collection of 27 studies and found the association between read meat and cancer is weak.
  • Chicken and fish are chilling in the corner like, what about us? Chicken and fish, not cooked in gallons of oil, can be quite healthy. Areas of the world where the staple in diet is seafood, see a much less rate of instance of heart disease (read about that in my omega-3-fatty acid post). So try to incorporate more lean meats and seafood into your diet, and less double cheeseburgers. No one is arguing this.
  • Although often adjusted for, in population studies, we don’t always know the disparity of characteristics in the people being looked at. Meaning, are the people getting cancer people who are also overweight, inactive, genetically predisposed, etc. Like I said, most of the time it is adjusted for, but not all the time. So great advice you’ve never heard before, but try to incorporate a healthy lifestyle of activity and exercise no matter what you eat.
  • To the extreme vegans and extreme meat eaters, let me be the moderator here. Again, there’s nothing wrong with being vegan. On paper, in my opinion, it’s probably a nutritionally healthier lifestyle, as long as you still get in your major vitamins and macronutrients most commonly found in meat (i.e. protein, iron, vitamin B12, etc.). With that said, in regards to nutrition and health (not getting into the ethics of it here), there’s nothing wrong with consuming meat either. Yes, excess red med is not good. Processed food should be minimal. But to accuse every meat eater of ignorantly welcoming cancer, makes you sound like an ass. A stupid one too.
  • Last but not least, a personal quirk of mine. For the extreme vegan lifestyle supporters (which is totally cool with me) that are also hardcore anti-vaccinators (not cool with humanity), you are NOT ALLOWED to endorse or repost any article supporting these recent findings about red meat and processed food by the WHO. Why? Because no one endorses the benefit and worldwide usage of vaccines more than the WHO. You can’t sit there and be like “oh the research on red meat is definitely accurate and flawless but the vaccine information is all conspiracies. I mean, you could do that, but that’s stupid too. Let’s stop stupid together.

References:
[1] Dunlop, Casey. “Processed Meat and Cancer – What You Need to Know.”Cancer Research UK Science Blog Processed Meat and Cancer What You Need to Know Comments. Cancer Research UK, 26 Oct. 2015. Web. 31 Oct. 2015.

5 Breakfast Items for Those Always on the Run

When you're in such a rush you grab a clock instead of food
For when you’re in such a rush you grab a clock instead of food

There are two kinds of people in the world. Those that get up extra early to make sure they have time to eat a giant breakfast and those that dart out the door in the morning with nothing in our stomach. If you’re like me, you fall into the latter category. Breakfast can be important for energy or to help you get in your total protein intake for the day. For me, a cup of coffee or tea gets me going for the day. I use breakfast as a time to help me get my total protein in for the day and ensure my protein intake is spread out (24 hour protein synthesis rates are about 25% higher if you space your protein intake out throughout the day, rather than eating the majority of it in one meal).

  1. Quest Protein Bar
    Again, still not sponsored by Quest, yet I act like I am. Seriously, though, it tastes delicious, has a lot of fiber, and lot of protein. I’ve had a lot of protein bars but none that compare to the taste of Quest (chocolate chip and cookies & cream are my favorite). Attention white girls, there is now a pumpkin flavor too.
  2. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey Protein Powder
    I think a common misconception is that protein shakes are only for after workouts, that’s wrong. Protein shakes are nothing more than a convenient way to get a bulk of protein for your total daily intake. Toss in a scoop of protein powder in the blender, cup of milk or water, some fruits, peanut butter if you’re feeling adventurous, teaspoon of Nutella if you’re feeling really wild, and blend. You’ve got yourself a filling shake, with a solid amount of protein, and some fruit intake as well. Does the type of protein matter? You’ll find some protein advertised as ‘super protein’, but go for regular whey protein isolate. Different brands will have different quality levels of the protein which may affect how it sits in your stomach; Optimum Nutrition tastes great (cookies & cream flavor) and sits well in my stomach.
  3. Greek Yogurt (FAGE or Chobani)
    Greek yogurt has become the cute new girl in class everybody wants to talk to, but is she just all talk? Nope, she’s the real deal. Delicious and lots of protein. I’m talking about the yogurt…this is a family blog, guys. Anyway, the two brands I put here are my go-to’s. Both are fat free which is important because depending on the brand, greek yogurt can sometimes be high in fat. FAGE (less commonly shelved than Chobani, I find) actually has 6 grams more protein than Chobani and tastes just as good in my opinion.
  4. Spinach Feta Wrap from Starbucks
    Look at me with a straight face and tell me you haven’t been having a pumpkin muffin everyday this fall. Well you can substitute the empty nutrition from that muffin for some fiber, lots of protein, and carbs from the whole wheat wrap to give you some energy. Even though they’re frozen, it actually tastes pretty darn good.
  5. Fiber One Cereal
    Ok, so not the most delicious option in the world, but hear me out. One serving of half a cup of the original Fiber One cereal has 14 grams of fiber. Trust me, that’s a lot of fiber (half of the total amount you need in a day). Mix it in with some milk and add some fruit or just put it in a sandwich bag and snack on it during your commute. If you can tolerate the bland taste, its benefits are worth it. The higher fiber content will keep you full and low calories will help you feel guilty free. Be careful when selecting the other types of Fiber One brand cereals; the flavored ones have less fiber. The ‘protein Fiber One’ has more protein but significantly less fiber than the original.

2 posts in a week, is FNDfitness back?? Look out for my opinion on the latest red meat, processed food, and cancer talk soon…dare I say THIS SATURDAY!?

The 7 Day, 7 Step Weight Loss Challenge

FND FITNESSAre you ready to be like, “OH SNAP, MY WHOLE PERSPECTIVE ON DIETING HAS CHANGED. I FINALLY REALIZE WHY I HAVEN’T BEEN LOSING WEIGHT!
Has my infomercial tag line drawn you in yet?

There are too many 5 day juice cleanses, 2 day squash diets, 8 day kale challenges, and other strange and temporary methods of weight loss. Unfortunately, the upside of these challenges are a few pounds of weight loss from extreme caloric restriction. Then what? You go about your same food habits you had before and buy a more expensive juicer.

So what CAN you do in a week that will help equip you with the tools to manage your diet more efficiently? You can…TRACK YOUR MACROS. I know, I know, you’ve already heard me talk exhaustingly over this topic, but now I’m literally going to spoon feed you into doing this for a week. Before we get started, though, let me give you 3 reasons this challenge is better than the juice cleanse you went through about a week ago, week ago.

  1. You will finally have an appreciation of the caloric impact of some of the most frequent foods you eat. I was having a really hard time losing weight a few years ago even though I thought I was eating less. After tracking, I realized the daily caramel macchiato, bagel with cream cheese, and medium bubble tea were adding more calories than I thought.
  2. You will stop feeling guilty about eating certain foods that make you feel like you were committing a crime. Remember, we’re not restricting or stopping foods with this plan, we are learning how to manage them.
  3. This is MUCH easier than drinking bloody broccoli juice for 7 days. When I say bloody, I’m obviously using English slang. Why am I using English slang? Great question. If I ever say bloody with an English accent in person, just hit me.

OKAYY. Here it is, 7 steps to finally understand FOOD and help you with weight loss!

  1. Download MyFitnessPal on your smart phone. Put the app on your home page, the bottom app-tray bar, where ever it’s easiest to access. If you leave the app on your 4th page of apps, you probably won’t use it.
  2. Click here to calculate your macros.  Answer truthfully and when in doubt, underestimate your answer when it comes to activity level. For the formula, leave the “total body weight formula option”.
  3. If you scroll down, on step 2, it will display your total daily calories based on your goal. So if you want fat loss, pick the “suggested option” and it will show you your total calories.
  4. Scroll down to step 4 and it will individually show you each macronutrient goal for the day. Go plug these numbers in your MyFitnessPal app by going to ‘More–>Goals
    –>Calorie & macronutrient goals’. Put in your total calories and adjust the percentages of the macronutrients to have the grams equivalent to your results.
  5. Now that you have your goals set, you are ready to track. You can either search foods by name or scan the barcode of the product. Pay attention to the option for serving size and number of servings when tracking. Since you probably don’t have a scale at home to weigh foods, just google it. For example, if you’re eating a chicken breast, google “how many ounces is a chicken breast”. Not asking you to cross mountains over here.
  6. Remember, just as important as the total daily calories are the individual macronutrients (protein, fat, carbs). If you realize your carbs are too high and protein too low, maybe substitute the giant subway sandwich for a protein shake?
  7. If you go a little over or a lot over your mark, don’t give up! Remember, this challenge is for you to learn about your food intake and make your lifestyle changes later.

After the 7 days, have some perspective on the outcome of your tracking. No, you won’t look super skinny after the 7 days, it wouldn’t be healthy if you did. But now you can appreciate the quantity and quality of the nutrition you take in. Maybe now you can discover that the daily food item(s) you have every single day, has been pushing your calories too high and that’s why you can’t lose weight. Maybe you realized that your breakfast and dinner are too many calories? Now you have a systematic approach of adjusting it. New to the gym and trying to gain muscle? Now you can finally track your protein intake and maximize your gains. This challenge was for 7 days, but I challenge you to do it even longer…I’m very confident your health will not regret the decision. Using English slang, however, that’s regrettable.

Fish Oil Supplementation 101

I tried, but I really don’t have a clever, humorous intro for this article. Instead, I’m going to randomly place funny things people have said to me in the pharmacy throughout this post. You’ll know it when you see it. Let’s learn about fish oils!

  • “You should shave your beard, then you may look handsome” -95 year old women
  • What’s a fish oil?
    • The term fish oil is used to refer to two different kinds of omega-3 fatty acids:
      • EPA and DHA.
  • What are omega-3 fatty acids?
    • They are unsaturated fats (aka the ‘good’ kind) which serve a lot of important beneficial functions in the body, such as: reduction in inflammation, blood pressure, triglycerides, soreness, increase in cognition, and other good stuff.
    • 3 kinds of omega-3’s are DHA, EPA, and ALA.
  • So where can I find these omega-3 things?
    • DHA and EPA are found in seafood and ALA is found in mostly flaxseed, vegetables, walnuts. About 2 servings of fatty seafood a week would get you your servings needed for DHA and EPA. Most people, though, don’t eat that much seafood.
  • “I used to look at maps…but now I look at girls. But that didn’t work. So now I’m going to go back to looking at maps.”
  • How much do I need to take?
    • Well, it depends. The recommendations vary depending on what you’re using it for and your health status. For example, the recommendation for a 56 year old who’s had a heart attack will likely be different for a 24 year old gym rat. I would say for most people reading this (a young-middle aged adult without a significant past medical history), if you’re taking fish oil supplementation, it’s for primary prevention. Primary prevention means, you haven’t had a heart attack but want to prevent one from happening and you don’t eat enough fish, so you’re supplementing with fish oil capsules.
      So, for you, a 400mg to 1gram of combined DHA/EPA is probably in the dosage range for what you’re looking for.
  • So does it actually work?
    • There’s plenty of evidence to show omega-3 consumption is correlated with less coronary heart disease (CHD) as primary prevention (primary prevention meaning you have no history of CHD).  A lot of this data comes from observational studies of looking at populations of people who have increased fish intake versus those that don’t. For example, they found that Greenland eskimos (who consume a whole lot of fish) had reduced rates of CHD, lower blood pressure, and better cholesterol compared to Westernized societies. They found that the eskimos had considerably high levels of omega-3 in their body. Are there other factors which contributed to this, such as, the likelihood of reduced McDonalds consumption and 44oz containers of soda? Yeah, probably, but the correlation is still there.
  • Conclusion.
    • Fish oil are often thought of as one of the best supplements to take, and for good reason. The benefits they offer are plentiful, and unlike the commonly consumed b-vitamins, omega-3 acids are something many people are likely actually deficient in. The best suggestion would be to start to incorporate seafood (salmon, tuna, flounder) into your diet, 2-3/week. If you really can’t find your way into doing that, then fish oil supplementation may be right to you.
    • If you want to learn more about the specifics, check the link on the second reference below. It has it broken down into each indication fish oil has been studied for and a description of it.

      References:
      Artham S, Lavie C, Milani R, et al. Fish Oil in Primary and Secondary Cardiovascular Prevention. Ochsner J. 2008 Summer; 8(2): 49–60.

      Fish Oil – Scientific Review on Usage, Dosage, Side Effects. (n.d.). Retrieved August 29, 2015. http://examine.com/supplements/Fish%20Oil/

6 Foods For Suhoor to Keep You Running Strong

I’m not even going to get on a rant about how FNDfitness has creeped into the shadows amidst my busy and challenging final year of pharmacy school. Instead, i’m gonna hit you with some serious alliteration (see title) and some tips to power through the second half of Ramadan.

Quick intro for the non-muslims: During the holy month of Ramadan, observed by Muslims around the world, we abstain from foods and drinks from sunrise to sunset (approximately 3:50am-8:30pm). Since that’s about 17 hours of no food/drink, it’s important for Muslims to wake up for suhoor, or a meal right before the sun rises. There is so much more to Ramadan than just not eating/drinking as it’s really a means of boosting our spirituality. I’ll let you read more about that here, if you’re interested.

1.) Quest Bars
BOOM. This. Quest bars are too good to be true. Kinda like when your IG picture of you ‘accidentally’ flexing in front of the biggest mirror in the gym gets 100+ likes. Quest bars are like the Lamborghini of protein bars. You won’t find another that tastes as good or has macronutrients comparable. They have 190 calories, 21g of protein, 21g of carbs, 8g of fat, and 17 GRAMS OF DIETARY FIBER. Let me put this into perspective. Recommended amount of fiber for women is 25g and 38g for men.[1] The average adult gets only 15g. Heck, Fiber One bars, which are advertised for their high fiber, have 9g. Point, Quest bars. Fiber helps to keep you feeling full, regulate your digestive system, lower cholesterol, and more. Also, they contain about an average of 6 ingredients, so it’s not filled with crap. They use the highest quality ingredients so you feel all magical inside after finishing a bar. The 21g of protein will also help with keeping your gains and your satiety (feeling of fullness). Oh yeah, it tastes like a candy bar. Buy here online or find in your local GNC, Vitamin Shoppe, or ShopRite. My favorite flavor is cookies and cream <3.
P.S. no, i’m not being paid by Quest. But Quest if you’re reading this and want to be endorsed by an up and coming fitness blog with like 3 regular readers, hit me up ;). email: effendi621@gmail.com

QuestBar pictures2.) Fruit
Time to #hitemwiththestudies. I’m trying to get my own catch catch phrase, we’ll see if this starts trending soon on twitter. So, they did a study in Mexico to compare the level of satiety (feeling of fullness) between four different meals. A fruit salad left participants feeling the most full (even though it had the 3rd least amount of calories).[2] Unsurprisingly, this meal had the most fiber content of the 4 meals and the runner up meal, whole grain bread and beans, had the most protein and second highest fiber content. What kind of fruits are we talking? Watermelon, oranges, apples, and bananas have some of the highest fullness factors.[3] Fiber and protein guys, it’s good stuff.

3.) Whole wheat grains
I’m gonna keep HEWTS (hitten em with the studies). I’m really going all in on this catch phrase, if you can’t already tell. I’m really not cherry picking this study to prove my point, because I don’t need to, science is doing this for me. In fact, that study is really small and not the best designed study, but it gets a few obvious point across. One being, the benefits of whole wheat over refined grains (aka white bread). Whole wheat bread is composed of 3 layers (bran, germ, and endosperm), all of which help promote satiety. The body has to work a little harder to break whole wheat grains down in the body which leads to the feeling of fullness and preventing a sugar spike. Refined grains, as delicious as they are, are stripped of 2/3 layers (bran and germ). Say deuces to the fiber and protein seen in whole wheat grains and hello to a delicious sugar spike. I’m not saying go awal and never eat white bread, i’m just saying it might not be the best option at 3:00AM to help you keep full throughout the day.

fiber 1

4.) Beans
So this guy, Dan Buettner, went to the 5 places in the world in which the most people living in their 100’s reside. One of the commonalities between all these places filled with old people were that they all eat a lot of beans. Beans are very macronutrient friendly and are filled with protein and fiber. Can they give gas, yeah. But I say, don’t let your body’s natural system of reliving gas prevent you from a healthy nutritious staple of life. To further touch upon this subject, would you believe that they actually compared the flatulence of three different kinds of beans? #HEWTS Black-eyed peas had the least number of complaints, but after a few weeks all three groups’ (pinto, black-eyed, and vegetarian baked beans) flatulence went back to normal.[4] Look, if you’re going to taraweeh (extra prayers at nighttime) and ripping the place up, maybe skip this suggestion for now. I’m just tryna help here.

black beans

5.) Whey Protein
For all my shirtless flexing friends out there wanting to keep their gains, you’ll like this one. Protein has a lot of controversies and misunderstandings (ie magic anabolic window of opportunity for post workout protein). Another one you may not be aware of is spreading out protein intake throughout the day versus one bolus high protein intake meal. Spreading out protein intake has some good traction to be potentially superior than one big protein meal. With the small window of being able to eat during Ramadan, taking advantage of this time can be important to spread your protein intake.[5] So go for that scoop of whey protein, blend it with some fruit, and be left feeling full and muscular. Then

6.) Vegetables
lol I know you’re probably not going to listen to this one, who even eats vegetables right? But for completions sake, this list would be quite inappropriate without vegetables. You’re already restricted in Ramadan to be take in a “well rounded, nutritious, and balanced diet” due to less frequent meals. Getting in some vegetables, though, would be really helpful for the nutrition and fiber. If you’re not gonna eat veggies, at least try to get in a multi-vitamin, but you’re not going to get the same bang for your buck.

America, don’t lose faith in FNDfitness. If y’all had enough confidence to vote for Bush for 2 terms, don’t give up on me now.

References:
[1] Zelman, Kathleen, and Elaine Magee. “Fiber: How Much Do I Need?”WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 04 July 2015. <http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/fiber-how-much-do-you-need&gt;.
[2] Jimenez-Cruz A, Loustaunau-Lopez VM, Bacardi-Gascon M. The use of low glycemic and high satiety index food dishes in Mexico: a lot cost approach to prevent and control obesity and diabetes. Nutr Hosp 2006;21(3):353-356.
[3] “Fullness Factor™.” – NutritionData.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 July 2015. <http://nutritiondata.self.com/topics/fullness-factor&gt;.
[4] Winham DM, Hutchins AM. Perceptions of flatulence from bean consumption among adults in 3 feeding studies. Nutr J. 2011;10:128.
[5]Schoenfeld BJ, Aragon AA, Krieger JW. Effects of meal frequency on weight loss and body composition: a meta-analysis. Nutrition Reviews 2015;69-82. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/nutrit/nuu017

Diet Supplements, Dr. Oz, and a Great Way to Lose Time & Money

dr oz

 

There are a ton of different products promoted for your health, some good and some bad; take a stroll down to the “diet supplementation” section in your local Walgreens and take a glance at some crappy ones. Or if you really want the full experience, take a stroll to a local GNC and look at their “diet supplementation” section. You’re going to see a whole lot of “WOW SUPER FAT BURNING PRODUCT IN THIS BOTTLE” products and some epic before/after pictures of a girl in a bikini (I think they use the same person in all the pictures, will need to verify this, though).

So, whats the deal with these kinds of supplements? Well, there aren’t really any “perfect” supplements out there. Even the products with good research to support their benefit, such as garlic to lower cholesterol, can pose a potential complication to certain population groups (those at risk of bleeding). [3] Some of the supplements with the strongest evidence to prove their efficacy and safety, oddly receive a false reputation for being very dangerous, e.g., creatine. [1]

In any case, the amount of supplements out there are vast and the information available is varied. That’s when reliable, unbiased, evidence based information outlets (such as www.examine.com) become super valuable. With that said, the average consumer may not go through the process of reviewing the literature regarding different over the counter supplements and herbal products. That’s when the role of health care professionals (especially pharmacists, since they are the most accessible ones) come into play. Unfortunately. we have some highly qualified healthcare professionals (looking at you Dr. Oz) who have an enormous following to whom he gets to spoon feed garbage information. Working in the pharmacy as a pharmacy intern, I have first handedly seen the brainwashed face of many middle aged women reluctant to listen to any advice based off of science or research in favor of the the good looking medical doctor with his own tv show. Yes, Dr. Oz does indeed make a lot of recommendations without any scientific evidence. [5,6]

Enough bashing of doctors that have their own television show even though they shouldn’t. Let’s get to the meat of the article. Here’s a fun fact, these herbals and supplements you’ll find in the vitamin isle are not FDA approved. One of the many jobs the Food and Drug Administration has is to make sure foods and drugs are strictly regulated to ensure the safety and efficacy of “FDA approved” products. This includes the over the counter bottle of Tylenol you have in your medicine cabinet and the the box of pop-tarts under your bed. So if these herbal products and magic fat burning capsules aren’t FDA approved, how do they end up on the shelves of your local convenience stores? As a generalization, most of your magic fat burning pills you see on the shelf, their manufacturer completed a crappy trial or two showing that their product resulted in weight loss. These claims will be super fabricated due to bad study designs and a manipulation in explaining the results. Let’s use an actual example using a popular fat loss supplement, garcinia cambogia, using a meta-analysis published in 2010, looking at its use as a dietary supplement. But first, I should probably explain what a meta-analysis is first…

A meta-analysis is when researchers will look at all the relevant literature on a topic and select those studies which fit a certain criteria (criteria which basically makes the study reliable). They will analyze the results, crunch the numbers, and come up with an overall conclusion on the data. A well done meta-analysis can really provide good information on a topic since they look at basically all the literature available on a topic.

So, what did this meta-analysis find? They concluded that the average weight loss seen from usage of garcinia cambogia versus placebo (an inactive pill used to compare the efficacy of something) was an extra 1.9 pounds. So, this product MIGHT help you lose an extra 2 pounds in over the period of a month or two in addition to a low calorie diet. Not to mention, these trials are short term (2 to 12 weeks) so the long term effects of garcinia are not known. That’s in addition to the short term adverse effects of garcinia, which include: headache, skin rash, common cold, and gastrointestinal symptoms which lead 88 people in total to drop out of the studies included in the meta-analysis. [4]

To really summarize the point of my analysis on garcinia, think of this. When you grab a bottle of garcinia camboga, in very large font in the front of bottle it’s going to say something like “SUPPORTS APPETITE CONTROL AND INHIBITS FAT PRODUCTION”. In very small font in the back it’s going to say “*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration”. Luckily their statements have been evaluated by our kind folks who completed the meta analysis. So in my opinion, what would be the more honest, accurate, and consumer friendly label description?

“Hi, we’re garcinia camboga and as a result of a lot of different unwell designed studies, it’s been shown that versus placebo, we offer a potential extra 2 pounds in weight loss over the period of a few months (in addition to a low caloric diet). There were some people in the studies who felt their appetite was controlled, but it wasn’t a statistically significant effect. In addition, you might get some crappy side effects like stomach upset, headaches, rash, and a cold. The long term effects of this product are not known and could potentially lead to liver toxicity which will likely be reversed upon discontinuation, based on prior case reports. [4] We recommend if you do want to spend 15 dollars a month to possible lose an extra 2 pounds DO NOT use longer than 3 months. Thanks!”

This obviously will never happen because then people like Dr. Oz won’t have a television show and these companies wouldn’t make any money.

To conclude, I really want to highlight the “so what”. What is the real clinical relevancy of the misguidedness alongside these weight loss supplements? People are going to waste time and money on these products which are going to offer them no long term benefit and minimal, if any, short term benefit. That time and money could be used towards things which will actually benefit the person. In addition, people often have the expectation they can go about their normal lifestyle (which led to their unhealthy body composition in the first place), take the weight loss supplement, and lose weight. Can you think of a greater combination of time wasting and ignorance? I can’t. All of this bad and misleading information is just another reason why we have an obesity epidemic. Can you imagine all of the efforts put towards these weight loss supplements were geared towards healthy lifestyle changes instead? Then the section for garcinia cambogia could be replaced with FNDFitness t-shirts and merchandise instead.

References:
[1] Cooper, Robert, Fernando Naclerio, Judith Allgrove, and Alfonso Jimenez. “Creatine Supplementation with Specific View to Exercise/sports Performance: An Update.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. BioMed Central, n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2015 <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3407788/&gt;.

[2] Dara, Lily, Jennifer Hewett, and Joseph Kartaik Lim. “Hydroxycut Hepatotoxicity: A Case Series and Review of Liver Toxicity from Herbal Weight Loss Supplements.” World Journal of Gastroenterology : WJG. The WJG Press and Baishideng, n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2015. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2773866/&gt;.

[3] “Garlic – Scientific Review on Usage, Dosage, Side Effects | Examine.com.” Garlic – Scientific Review on Usage, Dosage, Side Effects | Examine.com. Examine, n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2015. <http://examine.com/supplements/Garlic/&gt;
[4] Onakpoya, Igho, Shao Kang Hung, Rachel Perry, Barbara Wider, and Edzard Ernst. “The Use of Garcinia Extract (Hydroxycitric Acid) as a Weight Loss Supplement: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomised Clinical Trials.” Journal of Obesity. Hindawi Publishing Corporation, n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2015 <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3010674/&gt;.
[5] Specter, Michael. “The Operator – The New Yorker.” The New Yorker. The New Yorker, 4 Feb. 2014. Web. 25 Apr. 2015. <http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/02/04/the-operator&gt;.
[6] Swiss, Jamy. “JREF Swift Blog.” Dr. Oz: A Hazard To America’s Health. James Randi Educational Foundation, 12 May 2013. Web. 25 Apr. 2015.