Food for Fitness


Nutrition for Active People with

Dr. Shady Labib

By Hilary Diack

There’s little doubt a change of lifestyle is upon us. Even the most couch-addicted have grudgingly gone to check out the facilities at the local gym. So, a change of pace could need a change in eating habits. Cairo West Magazine got the answers from Dr. Shady Labib, a certified nutritionist specializing in sports-nutrition and health coaching.

CWM: How do you assess your clients when tailoring a nutrition programme for them?

SL: Assessments are on top of my priority list when working with my clients. Some clients may find it a bit annoying when they are prompted to fill out long questionnaires, while they are booking an initial assessment and consultation session online with me. But here is the thing; we are all different and unique. We have different lifestyles; our body’s hormonal make up and daily stress levels are also different.

In order for a nutrition programme to be successful, all of these interpersonal factors are taken into consideration. The only way to do that is through a good assessment. So for example, a weight loss program for a 32 year-old mother of two that works part time, would be totally different from a program designed for a 26 year-old medical resident that works night shifts.

Usually the assessments I do come in many forms:

Questionnaires online. (Asking you about your goals, your medical history, lifestyle factors, etc.)

3 day-dietary record. (You bring this to your first session)

Interviewing at the first session. This is when I ask a few questions that will help me understand more about your background and your goals.

Body assessments. (Skin fold measurements of body fat, girth measurements, weight and photos.)

What are the most common misconceptions when it comes to diet and fitness?

There are so many misconceptions when it comes to that field to the extent that I feel like I am more of a myth buster rather than a nutritionist! The major issue we are facing here is the way people gather information and data. They tend to believe anything they read or hear without even minimal questioning. Which could be a little bit disastrous when it comes to taking information for your health and wellbeing.

Here are the top four misconceptions I face:

1) Eat less and lose more. (This is true for a certain extent, but most of the time, it would yield to the opposite effect)

2) Stay away from fats. (Avocado and nuts will make me fat!)

3) If I eat at night I will gain weight.

4) “Hey what do you think about …. for fat loss?” (Put in the name of any supplements, tablets or herbs)

What do you consider to be the essentials of healthy eating when someone has an active fitness schedule?

People who exercise consistently require more attention to what they eat. Contrary to the “halo effect” (working out washes our food sins), when we workout, our bodies need more nutrients than average people.

When working with athletes, here are my top priorities:

1)  Getting the Big Two right. Macronutrients: carbohydrates, fats and proteins; and micro-nutrients: vitamins and minerals.

2) Placing systems and meal planning.

3) Peri-workout-nutrition, (the periods before, during, and after a workout can be exploited to help produce one’s desired goals), and supplements.

What is the best meal to have before a workout to give energy?

If your goal is to fuel your workout, then a mix of healthy complex carbohydrate like sweet potatoes, fruits, (it was believed that one should eat refined carbohydrate like sugars so it would hit the blood quickly, but this turned out to be wrong) and lean proteins (chicken breasts, red meat) 1-2 hours before the workout will give you the energy you need.

Of course, you should test it out and see what works for you, this is what I do with my clients. Some people won’t feel fine if they eat one hour before a workout and some people can’t eat certain foods before a workout. Again, we are all different and our bodies’ needs are different.

Do you recommend whey protein as a supplement? When is the best time of take it?

Whey protein is one of the natural proteins found in milk. It is very healthy and anyone -except people with renal and liver problems- could take it (there you go, another myth busted!). For an active person who works out, it is best to take it right after a workout. If not, it is beneficial to have it first thing in the morning. You could also use it on the go, if you can’t meet your protein requirement at any meal of the day. Just make sure to choose one with the least artificial ingredients.

Which vitamins/supplements would you recommend to aid in muscle growth (for men)?

All the supplements and vitamins in the world won’t yield anything, if not taken alongside a proper eating regiment. Food is the major player. Supplements are here to supplement. For men I would recommend safe supplements like, BCAA’s, Whey proteins, and Creatine.

Which vitamins/supplements would you recommend to aid in weight loss (for women)?

Again, the same concept: if you are not eating properly for fat loss first, you will not see any benefits.

Green tea extracts are helpful though.

How essential are proteins for promoting a healthy lifestyle?

Proteins are the most important macronutrients for healthy lifestyle and a healthy body. Everything in our bodies is made of proteins, our muscles, our immune system and our hormones. Proteins also help our metabolism, by something called the thermic effect of food. It takes up 30% of our energy consumption just to digest proteins and absorb it. Proteins will also help you be satiated.

How does one deal with sugar cravings?

This is something I get a lot in my practice. Usually sugar cravings are habits. They are not real.

Most of the time, they are our body’s way of handling our problems and stresses. We should first be mindful of this and we should understand what triggers it, in order to know how to handle it.

Aside from this, here are helpful tips to get over these cravings:

1) Clean your kitchen!!!! If chocolate is not there, you will probably not eat it. It is very hard to resist the urge of eating sweets if you are surrounded by triggers.

2) Go for the healthier alternative. Try a peanut butter/ banana smoothie before going for that chocolate and let me know what you think.

3) Watch the place you usually hang out, and take note of what the triggers are that set you off.

How does a person deal with too much water retention due to excessive exercising?

Drink more water and eat less salt. Too much exercising, especially in our country’s weather will not cause water retention.

What is the best post workout meal?

A mix of complex carbohydrates (potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, oats), lean proteins (chicken, red meat, fish, legumes (if vegetarian) and vegetables.


Dr. Shady Labib is a Precision Nutrition Certified Coach, a member of the General Syndicate for Sports with a specialty in nutrition, and also has his BChD in Oral and Dental Medicine from Cairo University.

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