Small consistent steps to taking control of your health!

Each new year is a fresh opportunity to get your health and eating habits on track, why should this year be any different? We sat down with Ahmed Hesham, a personal trainer and certified nutritionist at UFC Gym in Sheikh Zayed, to learn the nutrition and lifestyle adjustments he recommends for his clients. Hesham is passionate about helping others achieve their health and fitness goals, helping and guiding people to become the best versions of themselves through nutrition and fitness. Interested in improving your overall health and nutrition intake? Read on!

CWM: Through your work in nutrition, what do you find the biggest misconceptions people have about proper intake?

The two biggest misconceptions I hear from my clients are, “Eating at night will make you gain weight,” and “weight loss equals fat loss”. With regards to the first, eating at night will not make you gain weight. Nighttime meals will make you gain weight only if you exceed the amount of calories your body needs in order to maintain your weight. Anything less than your required calorie intake, you will actually lose weight. Anything over your required calorie intake, you will gain weight.

As for the second misconception, it is also not true. If you suffered an accident and spent two weeks on a hospital bed, you will lose weight, but most of it will be from your muscle mass, not necessarily fat. A person needs to move and function well in order to aide the aging process, you want to get into better shape and preserve your muscle mass. Having a toned body and agility is important to retain muscle mass, so losing weight quickly by means of crash diets and not working out is wrong on so many different levels because it cuts into our muscle mass.

How can bad nutrition contribute to common health problems we witness every day in our social circles?

An imbalanced and unhealthy nutritional intake can contribute to diseases and fatal conditions in several ways. For example, diets that are high in saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol can raise a person’s blood cholesterol levels and increase their chances of having a stroke. Diets that are high in sodium can also lead to an increase in blood pressure, and foods that contribute to high blood pressure are the biggest dietary risk factor for stroke.

The number one cause of death is cardiovascular and circulatory disease, which can be cured and prevented by diet and lifestyle adjustments. Every time you eat, you could be adding years to your lifetime or subtracting years away. Most chronic diseases are caused or accelerated by unhealthy diets.

Dietary risks were the leading cause of disease in the USA and contributed to more health loss in 2010 than smoking, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar. Diets low in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds and high in sodium, processed meats, and trans fats cause the most premature death and disability.

What is your opinion on diets like Keto Diet, Paleo, or Atkins – can these negatively impact a person’s wellbeing?

Keto, Paleo, and the many other diets work as long as you are in a caloric deficit state – meaning, you are taking in less calories than your body is burning. They work very well at least for a while, until your body catches up and adapts to this system. On a long-term basis, you will have to lower your calories or adjust your diet in other ways to keep making progress.

These diets can be a double-edged weapon, as many of these are restrictive diets such as the Keto diet, which asks the person to cut out fruits, starchy vegetables, and whole grains – all of which many studies have proven to be very good for us. It is better to avoid processed foods for example, because they are loaded with added sugars, sodium, and trans fats that are all proven to be harmful for us.

I recommend that the best diet is what science has proven to be better for us, one that is minimal in processed food and rich in a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nut, seeds, legumes, and lean proteins like chicken and fish.

Your 2019 Checklist of Goals

  • Be persistent, remain consistent, and have willpower and patience! Being mindful of your nutritional intake constitutes a big mental challenge.
  • Small consistent steps are keys to progress. Expect that it will take time and think long-term. Those who try to go from zero to hero in a day usually crash and burn.
  • Planning, planning, planning! Be prepared daily with healthy alternatives to fuel your body. Your fridge, lunch box for work, snacks in the car, need to be loaded with little to no processed foods.
  • Get enough quality sleep, at least 7-9 hours a night.
  • Try to get in some exercise daily at different intensities to keep your body guessing.
  • Hydrate! Drink enough water, many people don’t do that and it is essential for a well-functioning body.

Ahmed Hesham is a graduate of the Faculty of Pharmacy and an ISSA certified personal trainer. He holds a diploma in personal nutrition and is a certified weight lifting coach, speed and agility coach and a certified program design specialist. He currently works as a full-time trainer in UFC, Sheikh Zayed.