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Your health shouldn’t just be about surviving; it should be thriving! That begins with getting your food habits and choices right. In this episode, we further our discussion about health goal achievement by diving deep into building the correct meal plan for you. We have none other than Chef Mareya Ibrahim-Jones, aka Chef Mareya, ‘The Fit Foodie.’ As a healthy foods chef, holistic nutritionist, and founder and inventor of the patented eatCleaner line of products, Chef Mareya brings key insights into the best food (and supplements) we need in our lives. From seed oils to gut health to debunking diet fads, we explore the essential components of optimal health. Join us for a transformative discussion on making informed and beneficial choices to thrive in your health journey.
Key takeaways from this episode:
- Why it is important to know what goes into your plate
- Getting your macros right and the benefits of Omega-3
- There is no one-size-fits-all for dieting
- Seeds are your friend: In defense of seed oils
Guest Social Links:
Thrive, Not Just Survive: Building The Right Meal Plan For You With ‘The Fit Foodie,’ Chef Mareya Ibrahim-Jones
In this episode, we're going to further our conversation about health goal achievement. What does it take to thrive and not just survive? How can you achieve your healthiest and fittest life? I'm joined by Mareya Ibrahim-Jones. She's also known as Chef Mareya and The Fit Foodie. As a healthy food chef, holistic nutritionist, author, speaker, and entrepreneur, she constantly seeks to inspire people like you and me on our health journeys.
She's the Founder and Inventor of the patented eatCleaner line. This is now owned by Joy Mangano and Pitbull. She was featured on the Emmy-nominated cooking show Recipe Rehab for three seasons and has been seen on the Food Network and over 200 TV segments. Her latest book is called Eat Like You Give a Fork: The Real Dish On Eating To Thrive.
She shares her wealth of knowledge through her podcast, which is called Recipes for Your Best Life, and also through social media platforms. You can follow her @ChefMareya. She is a mom of five and makes Southern California her home with her husband, Gabe, and their rescue lab, Garbanzo. Chef Mareya, thank you so much for joining me and welcome to the show.
It’s so nice to be here with you, Corinna.
I wanted to start this conversation with what can sound like a simple question but often isn't, and that is simply what inspires you.
There are so many things. The first step for a lot of people to pursue a health journey is what's your why? My why is my family, being healthy, and vibrant for them. I have 5 children, 2 of my own and 3 with my husband as my stepkids. I need to show up for them every day and be in my best shape to serve my purpose on this planet. That's my biggest motivator.
I second that myself. I have two young boys. Being able to pick them up and throw them around is one of my motivators for starting to lift heavy weights again. That helps. I never feel like I'm throwing my back out when I play with them, which is needed.
They will appreciate it. What we now know is so much about exercise physiology and the impact of nutrition on both your physical and mental well-being. When you show up for them in your best shape, you not only are present for them but you inspire them. It’s monkey see, monkey do as they say. They see what you do and they will imitate. That's good or bad behavior.
I will say that one of my proudest moments as a mom is the fact that I'm making healthy meals for my kids and sometimes they're like, “Mom, this is good.” Even when I'm incorporating herbs and spices and things that they might not otherwise be exposed to outside of our house, making sure that I keep the culinary system in our home is something that is always the same or isn't always kid food-focused. I personally have followed that. I'm sure as a chef you'd probably advise something along the same lines.
It's amazing that you're doing that. Cooking is a survival skill. There are only a few things that we need to survive as human beings and food is one of them. For me, since my kids were able to stand on their two feet, I prop them up on a little stool in the kitchen or sit them up on the counter and even have them press a button. Statistics show that when kids are involved, they're up to 80% to 85% more likely to try something.
A lot of the phobias around different foods can be diminished if we get them involved. I felt pretty good about sending my daughter off to college. I knew she could fend for herself and not be burdened by having to go out to eat all the time or what they call the Freshman 15. That's one of the most important things that we can teach our kids from a young age.
With the Freshman 15, for anyone who doesn't automatically know what this means, do you mean the 15 pounds they gain?
Yes. Here's the thing. For people to be good eaters, it means you have to know what's going on your plate. It's so easy in our day of convenience to have food ordered and delivered to your doorstep or go out to eat, but when you are involved in the process, you are intrinsically invested in the quality of the ingredients, the smell, the taste, and the preparation. You end up having much more gratitude for your food. That gratitude that you have not only is absorbed by your body, it's also conveyed to the people who eat it. There's a lot of intention that goes into cooking and I feel like that's the manifestation of love in all five senses. You can't get that from any other art form.
One of the things I often advise my friends to do and that I use as a practice myself is bringing the kids with me to do grocery shopping or going to the farmer's market periodically and asking them to choose something that they want us to cook together. One of these adventures led to me having to look something up because I didn't know what to do with it. That was the time that my son picked up a Buddha's hand. I've cooked with citrus, sure but I never bought a Buddha's hand. I ended up making a lemon chicken recipe with it, which was delectable in the end.
Ultimately, you have so much rind to work with when you're working with a Buddha’s hand, but there was a lot left over. We could then use it for other things as well. I ended up making it as a salad topper and as a salad dressing as well, but he loved that. He was only four at the time. Getting that creativity and inspiration into your home can be something that livens the mood around the whole thing and makes it less of a chore.
That's amazing that you're doing that. I commend you. It's something that can turn into a fun outing for people when they don't let it overwhelm them because sometimes people are like, “It's hard to shop with a 3 or 4-year-old,” but if you get involved, it changes the mood. It changes the assignment where it's not like a chore. It's more of an adventure. Physiologically, we are imprinted by the age of five, our taste buds, and our predisposition to like certain things.
If kids are given an opportunity to develop their palates more comprehensively, then they're far less likely to have issues later on in life with obesity, challenging cravings, with settling for what I would call processed food. It’s the typical children's menu where you get to pick from a hamburger, a hot dog, or chicken nuggets. Their pallets are much more robust and they tend to be healthier people.
By the age of five, you're set in your ways and you have to recondition your taste buds if you want to break out of that conditioning. It's great to be able to explore all those flavors. If you think about it, look around the world. Many cultures are giving their children a variety of flavors at a young age. If you go to China or Japan, people are used to eating seafood, rice, and vegetables for breakfast whereas the SAD or the Standard American Diet is all about sugar. It's not because they're genetically predisposed to fish. It's just conditioning and exposure. We can challenge them and we can have fun with it like you're doing.
You can have non-traditional foods for breakfast. In France, for instance, an omelet is a supper. That's something you eat at dinner, not during breakfast too.
In Egypt where I grew up, it's very traditional to eat fava beans for breakfast. There are stewed fava beans. They’re very umami, very rich in essential amino acids, and purely plant-based protein because a lot of people can't afford meat, eggs, and things like that. That's a very common breakfast served with pita bread. It's supercharged with nutrition. I literally survived on fava beans growing up and that is something that everybody eats. We can not only explore different flavors but look to the world as an influence for models of health. The Mediterranean diet teaches us a lot about health and well-being.
Now, as we deepen this conversation about foods and healthy eating, I would love to know what your favorite foods are that can also benefit you.
There are so many different things. I never used to look at food quite like this until my twenties when I started in the natural foods world, which is where I cut my teeth in exploring how food can affect our mood, and how it can help us thrive versus just survive. If I were to categorize them into different buckets, I'd start with antioxidants because oxidation is something that happens every day from disease.
We have the highest number of chronic diseases now attributed to oxidative stress. If we can add and focus on antioxidants in our daily existence, we can help to prolong cells and cell longevity at the mitochondrial level and that helps us age better. In my 50s now, and I'm thinking about aging better. My ultimate objective is to have energy and vitality well into my 100s.
Antioxidants are showing up in the form of plant-based foods. I love berries. Berries are a superfood. It’s one of the best things that you can enjoy. Blueberries are the easiest and most affordable of all of them. It’s easy to enjoy. It’s something that I eat every single week if not every single day. Also, leafy greens are the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. They are full of antioxidants, fiber, phytochemicals, micronutrients, and all of the good stuff.
For many people, getting food into their bodies that is fuel and good for them seems daunting, but it shouldn't have to be. It can be as simple as adding some blueberries to your oatmeal in the morning with some chia and flax seeds. It can be as simple as throwing a handful of arugula onto your avocado toast. These are ways that we can upgrade our plates easily and get the antioxidant-rich foods that we need every day.
I'm also on a big kick around seeds. Seeds are one of the best foods that you can add and everybody can do it, whether you're plant-based or an omnivore. Seeds are so full of omega-3 fatty acids. We know the importance of omega-3s in feeding your brain. Your brain is 60% fat. It needs good fat in order to think properly so that you do all the other things that you're supposed to be doing and enjoying.
I just came back from a visit to Egypt where I'm from and a big antioxidant/superfood is black cumin seed. Sometimes it's referred to as black seed. People enjoy the oil. They eat the seeds whole. In Arabic, it's called Habbat al Barakah, which means a blessing. It's the seed of blessing and it truly is because there's so much science that proves that it's incredible for diabetes and regulating blood sugar. It has been shown to help shrink cancer tumors. It helps with satiety. There are so many benefits.
I'm exploring the benefits of seeds and how we can very easily incorporate them into our everyday eating plan. Antioxidants are a big thing along with omega-3s that I'm focused on and protein. Protein is the building block. It contains amino acids. It’s the building blocks of humanity. It's what we need to power our muscles, prevent atrophy, and age better. Getting good quality protein is absolutely a priority.
I did my first bodybuilding competition a couple of years ago. Protein has been hammered into my head but getting good quality protein in a lot of different varieties is key. It’s something that, as women, we tend to forget the importance of it because we naturally crave carbohydrates. We have to recondition ourselves to do that.
Getting good quality protein in a lot of different varieties is really key.
I want to stop here for a moment and deepen the discussion about two things that you've mentioned. One is omega-3s and the other connects to that because we need to have a conversation about getting macros. I would like to dive in more deeply, but while we pause on omega-3s since this is my wheelhouse more than probably any other professional area I play, having worked in the space of health as it relates to omega-3s for many years now, the challenge I see in so many individuals is even if they are getting plant-based sources, they aren't getting enough EPA and DHA.
For a long time, it was not that big of a deal in our minds. “You can take some flax oil and you're going to get the benefits of the omega-3.” It turns out that you need to consume something like sixteen times more of a bulk of flax seeds in order to even get close to what you might get from EPA and DHA in that. Your body has to go through these conversion pathways. Unfortunately, most people either lack enough of the enzymes to break it down or they're consuming so much omega-6, which competes for the same enzymes to break down that they get to the EPA and DHA that their bodies require to function optimally.
You mentioned your brain and eyes, for example, being 60% fat, which is absolutely true. Half of that fat is arachidonic acid, which is an omega-6 and the other half of that fat is DHA. Getting a direct source of DHA and EPA every single day is critical. With Örlö Nutrition, we provide that in our omega-3 and also in our DHA formulas. They're also available in polar lipid form so they can get right into your cells and get to work.
I have it literally and I'm not even joking. It sits on my desk. This is not just a plug for Örlö. I am dead serious. Since I started taking this supplement, I have to say that mental clarity in and of itself is indispensable. By the way, everybody in my family got sick, even though I told them to take it, on our trip. Coming back from our trip, I'm the only one that didn't. I'm just saying. It's such a critical thing for people to understand and to do regularly. I love that Örlö makes it in an easy-to-take format that doesn't give you any ugly fish burps or anything like that. I see it and I saw the effect pretty immediately within two weeks of taking it.
That's also what we hear reported from our customer base because, unlike fish oil, it takes longer for those to take effect. They say, “You need to be taking an omega-3 fish oil for months before you often see the benefit.” We had an individual who gave us a testimonial that they'd taken fish oil many times before but never saw the dry eye complaints disappear until they started our product and within days as opposed to weeks of waiting too.
There's a benefit to the absorption rate being as great as it is. People get the benefit quicker and therefore feel the connection like, “This is a change I made, here's the benefit I'm seeing,” so they're more likely to keep the habit going. The other thing I wanted to say with regard to the omegas is this connection to oxidation and the connection between oxidation and inflammation.
When you're consuming nutrients that are in an oxidized format, many of the cooking oils that are sitting there on the shelf for a long time, half the time, you get them into your cabinet. You may or may not bake or cook with them often enough so they sit in your cabinet and they essentially go bad. They spoil. Oxidized lipids are very damaging to the cells in your body because your body's good at absorbing fats and sugars. We're great at that.
If you are consuming an oxidized lipid, usually, you can smell it. It's a little off and you may not know exactly why. It’s the same thing with nuts or seeds that have been stored for far too long. However, if you can take that oil and rub it between your fingers like this, if it's not super fluid, if it gets sticky, and it feels like it's literally almost like glue holding your fingers together when you try to separate them, then that is an indication that the lipid is oxidized and you should throw it away.
This is a healthy eating 101 thing you can do. If you get your oxidation right, you're getting enough antioxidants, eating tons of berries, and getting your omegas right, so you're not getting too much inflammation in your body, then these two things work together to create a system of health for you. I wanted to ask a question that related to this.
Piggybacking on what you're saying, for a lot of people, this is where they feel very intimidated. They feel like they're trying to get the balance of macronutrients down. I would say and encourage everybody who's reading that it's not necessarily about perfection here. We understand that everybody's got challenges day-to-day.
People are traveling. They're dealing with crises. There are so many inputs that can affect that, but I do think that coming up with routines and ultimately rituals that help you do things as regularly as possible is a big step towards better health. I encourage people to start with a good morning ritual. That morning ritual can be started with a nice glass of water. I like to add magnesium to my water. Get your magnesium going in the morning. It’s so important.
I read a statistic that over 70% of people are significantly magnesium-deficient and it can cause so many problems like heart palpitations, dizziness, and feeling of vertigo. I think my dad has it because I was talking to him about it. Get in the habit of doing things in the morning. Get a good breakfast in. Take your supplements. Have them sit right where you do your work or where you brush your teeth.
Have that moment of gratitude to absorb it all. These are the routines that turn into rituals that we can then try and keep regularly so that even if we're not perfect on a day, at least, we're doing the things that help to keep us on track. That should give us all a feeling like, “I may not have it perfect, but I'm on the right track.”
You brought us right back to macros, which I had mentioned, and this is part of what I wanted to know. I personally do best when I'm on about 40% of my calories from carbohydrates, 30% from fat, and 30% from protein. That's when I feel the most sated. I'm not hungry all the time. Also, it’s when I seem to be able to manage my weight better. I was bad at this for a while because I got into the habit of eating what I was making at the moment. I wasn't keeping very good track of my nutrition totally.
I made this commitment to myself. I bought myself a smartwatch so I could track things on the go more whether or not I had my phone on me. I'm using the apps there to track my consumption. Also, because it has every food than most brands and restaurants macros built-in, I can log my food on the way. What I'm finding is that, for one, I've lost 11.5 pounds, which is great.
Also, without losing any muscle mass, I've put on about 0.4 pounds of muscle. That's something that's especially challenging for women in their 40s. I can see the horizon bringing me back to my prior level of fitness. I've been a marathoner. I've lifted weight for a long time. I'm back in the gym in a way that I'm happy with almost every day and it feels really good. I feel better in my skin. I feel more energetic. I hadn't noticed that I was flagging a little bit in that way until I changed everything up.
This is very personal. It's important that we talk about this because there are a lot of influencers, trainers, nutritionists, and even doctors telling you that you should eat this much, this much, and this much protein, carbs, and fat. The truth is everybody is different. Your age matters. Your sex matters. Your activity and the type of activity matters. A marathon runner versus a bodybuilder is going to have very different protein needs.
Also, you have to think about genetic predispositions. I am in the process of getting my brain health coach certification through Amen University. Dr. Daniel Amen talks about different types of brains and how these brains crave differently. Forget about blood type. Your brain type can dictate how your propensity to need more carbohydrates, for example, versus protein. The people who don't quite get it right can honestly be miserable in their lives.
If you're a person who naturally needs to have more carbohydrates and responds better, I have a very good friend. She's 5’11” and she needs a lot more carbohydrates than I do. I don't do well on a high-carb diet. I do much better with more protein and more vegetables. There are still carbohydrates, but in terms of grains and things like that, it needs to be more of my supplement. I do well with that.
Also, more plant-based fat. I don't do well with animal fat at all. It bogs me down. I can't eat dairy. It’s things like that. You begin to know yourself. What you are doing with keeping a food log, the number one thing that I will tell anybody who is on a health journey is to start to keep track of your food. I have a ten-day meal plan that I give people to identify what is your best type or your best macro split. It's to get them started to see how are they responding.
I have them write down every single day, “How are you feeling? How do you feel in your body?” Don't tell me about the scale. I want to know how you feel. Are you energetic? Are you happy? Tell me about your mood. Do you feel like you're crashing in the afternoon? It is so then we can take a closer look and see how you are responding to your different macronutrients to your split. When I say split, just like you were saying. Maybe it's 40% protein instead of carbohydrate. Maybe it's 20% or 25% fat. We need to massage that based on all of those factors and your goals.
When I was getting ready for my competition, my macro split looked very different. Again, it all boils down to what your goals are. I would take anything that somebody says generally with an extra grain of salt because there is no one-size-fits-all. Everyone is different. A woman in menopause is going to eat very differently than a guy in his 30s. We can't do a one-size-fits-all. That's ridiculous.
I totally agree with you. People will follow a fad diet and say suddenly, “This is the only way to go,” and that simply doesn't work. I will give an example from my personal experience. I decided to try the Whole30 diet. The way the Whole30 diet is constructed, you could make almost every diet work with it, but I at the time was eating meat still and I was choosing to make bacon for my husband because that's what he wanted.
I was making a frittata in the bacon grease. Like you, I don't do super well with that much animal fat. What happened was that I started to feel constricted in my joints. It hurts to curl my fingers like claws almost. I would feel pain in my knuckles or my toes. That was an indication to me that I was getting just too much inflammatory fat. Arachidonic acid, which is present in most animal fats, is more inflammatory in the body. I needed more omega-3.
As I learned more about my genetics, I also learned about why. That is I have one representation of APOE4, which also means I have a harder time assimilating some of the omega-3 or anti-inflammatory fats. Therefore, having them in that polar lipid form is even better. It's funny that what I've learned about my physiology and my personal physiology and also the experience of trying many different diet plans over the years to find what works for me.
As a marathoner, to your point, I got 50% of my calories from carbohydrates and sometimes even more. That depended on how hard I was training and how many miles I was putting on my feet. Often, you eat on the super long runs, which are pure sugars to keep you going. Your muscles need the source.
What we have access to more than ever is our personal physiological needs. A blood test can tell us quite a bit, but there are certain markers that we even need to dive into a little bit further if we don't want to do this trial and error with different types of splits. It's misleading because people can have very good results on certain diets, but then things go sideways. I'll give you an example. There's a big push towards the carnivore diet. I'm going to say it. I lose my mind when I see sticks of butter.
Thank you, Dr. Paul Saladino.
Also, Dr. Saladino attacks kale like it's the antichrist. What has kale done to you?
He doesn't want you to eat it is what he would say.
That's more than that. He is on a mission to destroy it. I have a friend who has been on the carnivore diet for a couple of years now. For a couple of years, I've been telling him it's not a good idea. It might be a quick fix to help you drop body fat if you're responding to that or to help with satiety, but it's not something you want to do for the long haul. It will clog your arteries. He was like, “I flat out don't eat vegetables.” I don't know how you're going to the bathroom every day. He is literally not getting any fiber.
I'm glad you brought that up because that's the thing that I notice when I get my protein up to about 50% of my calories. I was of this mind for a while that I was like, “More protein at this stage in my life might be better as I'm trying to build more muscle mass.” I found that it was harder to go to the bathroom and I couldn't really stomach it. I had to get more vegetables. I had to get a more balanced diet. It sounds perhaps too simple, but it wasn't balanced enough. I was too overweight on proteins without getting enough fiber and without getting enough other nutrients to have a comfortable movement every morning the way I was before.
That's a very personal thing. You get so much hydration from eating fruits and vegetables that help with that. My friend, here we are a couple of years later and he started having heart issues. It looks like he's going to have a stint now. It breaks my heart to be honest because so many people are out there and they're doing exactly what they're seeing on social media. They are being influenced to do things that absolutely make no sense.
You get so much hydration from eating fruits and vegetables.
We are not cavemen anymore. We are living in the modern world where many of us are sedentary for the most part. It's not the same world. I'm saying this with a lot of veracity because it drives me crazy that so many people will follow something simply because they're seeing an immediate result. Therefore, they think that's the answer for the long haul and it's very dangerous. It's a very slippery slope. Think about those decisions before you jump on board.
Another comment that I wanted to make about your discussion around seeds also stems from Paul Saladino because he will villainize seed oils all day long. He says that they're the culprit of all of our health problems. What he means to say is fried foods and foods that are overprocessed. We need to make it a little bit clearer for people. I don't say go to corn oil or sunflower oil to make all your food. That's not what I would ever advocate, but seeds should not be thrown out with that bath water.
I have sesame seeds and chia seeds. I use pumpkin seeds and things like that that I'll throw into salad dressings. I throw them in the blender with my protein shake to get the benefits of the seeds at the time I'm having the protein shake. There's another good reason behind this. If you are doing a protein shake, a lot of the time, they don't have any fat in them. It's protein and some fruit or something to that effect. If you're taking fat-soluble vitamins, you'll get more out of them if you're consuming them with a little bit of fat. Even just consider throwing a couple of walnuts in that protein shake and you'll do better.
Avocado at that too. As I mentioned before, I'm hot on this topic now because I have noticed it in myself. You were talking about your hands and feeling some tightness. My hands used to hurt in the morning when I woke up to just make a fist. Now, I recovered from a torn ACL and never had surgery. I truly believe that's attributed to the nutrition that I'm doing plus the addition of seed oil. You're right. We're missing and throwing the baby out with bath water if we completely dismiss this category.
Another thing that's benefited from that is documented from taking black seed oil is skin and hair health. My hair has never been this thick. I'm not getting grays. I barely have any gray hair. My skin is more vibrant and healthy-looking than ever. These are the secrets of our ancestors. This is what ancient wisdom has been telling us for thousands of years. They've used seed oils. I believe in ancient wisdom. I believe that there were much smarter people that came before us that did things that worked. Why reinvent it?
There's wisdom in plants. It is the fact that you've rediscovered this piece. I've seen the science of black seed oil. There's science regarding the combination, too, of black seed oil with omega-3s. What we'll see for instance is that people have greater success with weight loss journeys when they get these things in combination. They see a reduction in inflammatory markers. Those are pretty well documented.
It's one of the most documented of all the botanical oils. You're bringing something up that I think we need to also keep in mind. People get caught up in the idea of, “It's wrong to supplement.” That's why it's called a supplement. That's crazy.
It's true. People do get caught up in that. They see the inflammatory media saying all these 50 supplements didn't work, so then they don't consider any supplements as being good. The reality is there is a ton of crap out there. Let's be real. There are some products that probably you might as well throw away, but when you find a reputable source, it's different.
That means that we need to find the right sources and take them in combination. When I look back and I think about what I have done in the past, I'm going to say probably three years since I started peri, I’m going into peri after the pandemic and then now, on the tail-end of going through menopause, taking this, the black cumin, and a good probiotic have all made the biggest impact. It’s those three things.
Let's talk about probiotics. What is your favorite? I have mine that I can share too.
Let's talk about probiotics because when it comes to absorption and your gut health, being able to utilize those nutrients and activate them so that they benefit your body so that they're absorbed depends on your gut health. Your gut is the biggest producer of serotonin. If you want to build your mood and feel good, you have to get your gut right. Otherwise, these things that you're adding to your repertoire every day are not going to show any benefit.
If you want to build your mood and feel good, you have to get your gut right.
I try and get whole food sources as much as possible, but I do take a supplement. I've been taking the Garden of Life. It's 100 billion CFUs. It's a very diverse type of probiotic. I've been taking it for several years now, but more diligently over the last few years. It's helped to prevent me from getting sick. It's helped to prevent me from getting bladder infections, which I used to get all the time when I was in my twenties. In general, my immune response. I feel so much stronger than I ever have. I used to get sick all the time. It's been a big help but supplementing other things like eating yogurt. I do a lot of pickled foods like kimchi and sauerkraut. I drink raw apple cider vinegar regularly. All of those have made a big impact on me.
Let's sum up for the audience, too, because we've mentioned a few supplements that I think could be helpful. We've talked about omega-3s. We both love Örlö Omega-3, which is the show brought to you by them. We can give you an extra 10% off with the coupon code NWC at checkout. That can help you seal the deal. We have black seed oil. There are several available on the marketplace. You've mentioned black cumin.
It’s the same thing. Black cumin and black seed are interchangeable.
It's the same. I wasn't sure. I thought perhaps they were two different things, but it's black seed oil or black cumin. Also, you have mentioned this digestive health product as well as adding magnesium to your water. I've used CALM to put into tea in the evening to help me relax into my night. I'll use that one in a chamomile tea or a sleep tea of some sort.
It’s so important.
For women out there, especially if you're on perimenopause or if you're pregnant or going through other hormonal shifts, you often wake up in the middle of the night with a cramp in your calf or something like that. It's just not enough magnesium.
Magnesium and potassium together too.
Getting enough of that can be critical. I actually love it. This is perhaps because I fell in love with this particular nutrient when I was training for marathons, but for exercise, before I go to the gym, I will drink a little bit of coffee and throw some d-ribose in there to sweeten it up. The reason for that is that d-ribose is how your muscles use sugar. I find that my performance is stronger when I do that. There's a science that backs both those things up. A little bit of caffeine and some d-ribose and you'll feel stronger and you'll get more accomplished in that particular jaunt. For me, it's a treat. I like something that can be a treat.
If you think about it, a lot of pre-workouts do that, but doing it the way you're describing helps to eliminate a lot of the chemicals and processed ingredients that end up just the junk that goes into pre-workout. I would say electrolytes, too, are helpful, and those trace minerals. By the way, going back to seeds and nuts, too, incredible sources of trace minerals and magnesium, pumpkin seeds are one of the best sources of whole food magnesium.
Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, all of those. I'm going to go on the record and say seeds are your friend, dump those out. These different things that we're talking about, the variability here in how much to take depends on where you're at in your life stage. As we age, certain things deplete and we need to add them in.
Seeds are your friend; don't dump those out.
We don't produce them naturally. It's always good to check in with your doctor or with a registered dietician or a nutritionist who can help guide you on what is right for you depending on your goals. That way, you don't have to spend too much time trying to hit the mark. As a general guideline, these are the things that have helped my life. I know that everybody is different, but there are professionals out there who can help you hone the amount too.
As we round out the conversation, we've talked a little bit about getting the macros right and how that can vary for you. I've heard a lot in media of late saying that individuals need to get a lot more protein and perhaps more protein than is easy to get in a single meal or even three meals a day in order to achieve their health goals. Where do you sit on this particular issue?
It boils down to what your goals are. As a general number, I like to see women get between 0.8 grams to 1 gram of protein a day for their desired body weight. If your desired body weight is 150 pounds, the goal is to get somewhere between 120 to 150 grams in a day. With that said, that's not for everybody. That's for somebody who's actively building muscle. I was a speaker at TheFitExpo and a bodybuilder was telling me that when he was at the peak of his training, they were getting 4 grams per pound of body weight. I thought to myself, “That's insane.”
That's a lot of food to eat. This is those individuals, too, who are setting an alarm to wake up in the middle of the night so they can eat some chicken because they need to get more in.
We are talking about big muscles. The thought of that is very daunting even for most people to think about eating that much food. I say that as somebody who is actively trying to build muscle and to keep muscle on because, as we get older, quite frankly, it becomes a lot harder to build muscle. I say that for women that are in peri, post, and a little bit older to try and reach that. If you're younger, you may be very well off somewhere in the 0.5-gram range.
If you're 150 pounds, maybe 75 grams. Again, it's all going to boil down to where you are in your life stage, what your fitness goals are on your health journey, and how you feel. At the end of the day, if you're able to retain muscle, I know people who are in their thirties who can retain muscle well on 0.25 grams to 0.5 grams of protein a day. That's not me though. It boils down to an individual need.
From my personal experience, I shared that I've been down 11.5 pounds since Christmas when I got myself this for Christmas, but I also have put on 0.4 pounds of muscle. To get there, I am averaging between 95 and 105 grams of protein a day, but I've always been someone who puts on muscle fairly easily. Even at my age, that doesn't seem to have faded that much and it enables me to manage my health and feel good at that particular range. However, I have to tell you, most of my friends who were in a similar situation, I would say, “You probably need that 150 grams of protein a day,” is how I would get there.
When you think about your macronutrients, the one good thing that people can use macronutrient splits for is to prioritize high-quality food. When you have that as your benchmark, if you are thinking about protein and prioritizing it, then there's less room for garbage. If I'm starting my day with good high-quality protein, I'm setting the tone for the rest of the day. Rather than thinking like, “I'm going eat that donut,” it’s, “Have I gotten my protein in for the day for the meal?”
It changes how you think about it.
It changes how you perceive food. That's the best way that we can use this idea of macros. If my goal is to get to 110 grams of protein to 120 grams of protein a day and I am rounding the corner into dinner, I haven't done that yet. I'm going to drink a protein shake. I'm probably not going to want the junk. A helpful way to look at it too is to let that fuel you to prioritize higher quality nutrition.
One of the bases where you can get a lot of junk in your food is a lot of the proteins that are out there. You can look at the laundry list of ingredients in them. Some of them are bad. I would like for people to understand that there are cleaner options available. If you've had a protein shake before and you said, “I didn't like it,” believe me, there's one out there that you will like. I'm personally at the point in my life and have tried enough of them where I get the unflavored unsweetened proteins. I have plant-based versions and also whey-based versions I get. I mix it up from time to time. I'm putting real fruits into my smoothies. If I want a little more sweetness, I'll put some bananas. I can put nuts and seeds and greens.
I even throw a greens powder in there or a matcha powder in. It changes the flavor profile of the thing I'm consuming so I keep it fresh. You can create something that will work for you. This is one of the only ways that I'm able to make sure I hit 100 grams or more of protein a day, is by having a protein shake with about 25 to 30 grams of protein in it as one of my snacks. It makes it easier to get there, especially since I'm mostly plant-based in my meals and I don't eat animal products before dinner.
I got to the point where I had to watch certain macros in my training. I would simply put a scoop of protein powder into my shaker cup with some water and drink it. There are good quality proteins out there that should still taste good. I would encourage people that if you love a smoothie and that's something that you get into your day every day, load it up. That's where you can get a lot of your added micronutrients and phytonutrients.
Let's not forget. We're talking about macros, but those micronutrients are also incredibly valuable and where you can get a lot of these additional vitamins and minerals that we're talking about. Try to get them from whole foods sources as much as you can. A smoothie is a great way to do that. I'm a big fan of adding my greens and my berries. Also, getting the flax and the chia and all of that in all in one fell swoop. It's a great way to do it.
I will admit that I've sometimes used a chocolate protein shake that is flavored and fairly clean with my coffee to make a mocha and have it hot. Sometimes, people don't think about that or they can take collagen and do some of the same things because you get collagen proteins and all those peptides, which is also beneficial to health. There's a way to get there. If you have a goal and you want 150 grams of protein a day, you can do it. It may take a little bit of creativity to get there, whether you're plant-based or animal-based.
I agree. Setting yourself up for success means having the right stuff at your disposal in your kitchen every single week. I encourage people to create those rituals and habits where you know, “I've got the supplements that I need and I take them at a certain time. I've got my protein powder. At this time is when I'm taking it,” or, “I have my collagen and I'm going to mix that in my coffee or my tea.”
Having those rituals that you do every single day helps to fill in the gaps. I believe that that's been the biggest change from my 20s and 30s, where I felt like I was chasing my tail. We have a lot more science and understanding of nutrition now than ever that's available to people and not just health professionals. The more we can make it easy on ourselves with these habits and rituals, the better.
I realize we're coming up to our point here. I want to thank you for your time. I encourage people to check out your podcast. I was so enjoying Episode 117, which was called Unbreakable Strength: How Muscle Saves This Trainer's Life. There's so much wisdom in that particular episode, and it helps people understand how you can go from the worst-case scenario back to your best health. That was an incredibly insightful and inspirational story in that particular episode. I encourage people to go check it out. They'll be happy to continue following you and your journey on social platforms as well. You're @ChefMareya.
I welcome people to come and check it out, and ask questions. Also, on my website at ChefMareya.com, there are a lot of free resources for people. There are recipe booklet downloads. I have a free masterclass on FIT (and FAB) over 40, how our hormones change, and what we can do to embrace our best-fit life at 40 and beyond because people feel like it's downhill from there. I'm saying, “Life's just getting started.” I welcome people to check out those resources and I'm here to help however I can.
I joke with my kids that my death age keeps increasing. I'm always saying it's 60 years from my present age. Now, I'm saying I'll live to be 107. I'm not willing to give up.
We need to keep encouraging people to live their best quality of life now. Quality of life is so incredibly important. What I want to encourage people is to feel like they are living their best lives without feeling like they're sacrificing too much and they're not able to enjoy the things they love. There's always an opportunity to enjoy the little things. It's a matter of not being too hard on yourself and knowing that every day is an opportunity for improvement.
That's a perfect note on which to end. Thank you so much for joining me in this episode.
Thank you, Corinna.
If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, rate, and review it wherever you're picking this up. If it's on YouTube, give us a comment. Each of these actions helps more people to discover the show so we can all reach our best health naturally. As we close this show, I hope that you'll raise a cup of your favorite beverage with me as I say my closing words, here’s to your health.
- Mareya Ibrahim-Jones
- Eat Like You Give a Fork: The Real Dish On Eating To Thrive
- Recipes for Your Best Life
- @ChefMareya – Instagram
- Örlö Omega-3
- Unbreakable Strength: How Muscle Saves This Trainer's Life – Recipes for Your Best Life Past Episode
- FIT (and FAB) over 40
- YouTube – Nutrition Without Compromise
- Chef Mareya – Facebook
About Chef Mareya Ibrahim-Jones
Mareya is also known as Chef Mareya, ‘The Fit Foodie.’ She’s a healthy foods chef, holistic nutritionist, author, speaker and entrepreneur. She is the founder and inventor of the patented eatCleaner line of products, now owned by Joy Mangano and Pitbull. Mareya was featured on the Emmy-nominated cooking show, Recipe Rehab for 3 seasons, and has been seen on The Food Network and over 200 TV cooking segments.
She shares her passion for clean eating with her followers through live events, online cooking classes, books, and programs. Her latest book is called, “Eat Like you Give a Fork: The Real Dish on Eating to Thrive” and she is also a signature chef for the multi-million copy bestseller The Daniel Plan. Mareya is a mom of 5 and makes So Cal her home with her husband, Gabe and their rescue lab, Garbanzo. You can find Mareya at chefmareya.com and on Instagram and Facebook @chefmareya.