Monday, September 01, 2008

Back to basics


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Working out during Ramadan

*The Ramadan Nutrition and Workout Plan for Success*
By: Rehan Jalali

One of the most frequently asked questions I get is how can I workout and eat properly while I am fasting? Most people see the blessed month ofRamadhan as a time when they will surely lose strength and or muscle massand some people think they can only "maintain" during this month. Thiscannot be further from the truth. In fact, if you use some of the strategies I am about to share with you, you can make some of your best gains during this month! It's all about maximizing nutrient uptake, maintaining properhydration, and modifying key fat burning/muscle building hormones in yourfavor during this month.

First of all, let's look at what happens to your body during Ramadhan. While you are fasting, obviously you become more dehydrated at rest--butactually less than if you had exercised aerobically for over an hour (soexercise causes greater dehydration for that time period versus fasting).Your main metabolic fuel source for bodily function during fasting is mainlyfat, which is a good thing. There is a great advantage fasting when thedays are shorter as more meals can be eaten during the night. So the goals during Ramadhan are to maximize metabolism (even though your metabolism will slow down due to less frequent meals), preserve and enhance as much leanmuscle mass as possible (which will inherently increase metabolic rate andallow you to burn more calories at rest), and maximize your workout (both cardio and weight training). During Ramadhan, depending on your goals, I really recommend that you limit cardio to 2 days a week at the most. This is again to preserve as much lean muscle tissue as possible. There is actually research showing the health benefits of fasting. It is truly aphysical purification.

Training Times
Ok, enough of the background, let's get to the meat of it! I am going toset the record straight here. The best time to do a weight training workout is NOT while fasting. This can create way too much muscle breakdown and cause a significant rise in the catabolic hormone cortisol.Training while in a state of dehydration can decrease strength significantly. In fact, research indicates that dehydrating a muscle by aslittle as 3% can cause a 12% loss in strength. Training while you are fasting can actually be more detrimental than beneficial! The best time toweight train during Ramadhan is after Taraweh prayers at night. This will insure that you will have several meals and plenty of water in your system before going to the gym. This will also allow you to consume your all-important post workout meal or shake which is essential to muscle growth and even fat loss. If this is too late then the next best time to weight train is about 1 hour after Iftar before taraweh prayer. The best time todo cardio work for maximum fat loss is before suhur—yep that's the truth. Of course, most people I know will not want to get up at around 3: 30 AM and do cardio! If you CAN pull this off then the best thing to do is get up and drink plenty of water with a cup of coffee or green tea, wait 30 minutes andperform 30-45 minutes of moderate intensity cardio work like a brisk walk ona treadmill. If this is out of the question for you, then the next besttime to do cardio is approximately 30-45 minutes after a "light" iftar (Iwill define this shortly).So now you know when to train, it's time to learn what to eat and drink(think water, water, and more water!).

Suhur meal (morning/pre- dawn)
For suhur, it is imperitive to drink plenty of water, eat a good blend of protein, carbohydrates, and essential fat—that's right "good fats" have manyfat burning and muscle building properties and their importance is evengreater during Ramadhan. Some good "suhur" foods include:
Egg whites (1 yolk)
Chicken breast
Cream of wheat
Protein shake
Dark HoneyRaisins or dates
Fibrous vegetables [this will help increase the feeling of fullness as well]
All natural peanut butter, flax seed oil, plive oil – preferably extra virgin (which means it's cold processed and the essential fatty acids are preserved)
Plenty of water

It is important to take a solid Multi-Vitamin/ multi-mineral supplement with suhur as well to make sure daily minimum requirements of key nutrients are met. One good one is Opti-Pack by Super Nutrition. Taking extra vitamin C and vitamin E can also be helpful. It is very important to watch your sodium intake at this time as high sodium can cause greater dehydration plus increase thirst during the day—not good for fasters. Avoid high sodiumfoods like soups, sauces, condiments, gravies, high sodium bread products, and canned meats.

Iftar meal
This is a key time for rehydration. The wisdom in Islam is never ending.We break our fast with dates and water but if you investigate this nutritionally, you will see that dates are very unique in their nutrientcontent. They contain very high levels of potassium, a key re-hydrationmineral and a special carbohydrate blend that enhance hydration above andbeyond water alone. So basically when you eat a date and water for iftaryour body gets hydrated again much faster than with water alone (this is acomplex topic but I don't want to bore you with the details—You can think of dates and water as a very advanced form of Gatorade(r)) . You should also eat some quality protein at this time as well. I recommend three dates and ameal replacement protein powder like ZI Diet MRP from VPX Sports, Lean Bodyby Labrada, or Myoplex from EAS. Of course, drink plenty of water. Then 1-1.5 hours later have a food meal (or follow the schedule above for cardio).Then during taraweh, depending if you pray 8 or 20 rakahs, have a protein bar in the middle (not while you are praying of course!) or have another small protein and complex carbohydrate meal after the 8 rakahs—drink plentyof water if you have a protein bar. Then go train about 30-45 minutes aftereating the bar. After the workout, have another nutrition shake (asmentioned a few lines ago) with plenty of water. Eating small meals at night can trick your body into speeding up metabolic rate (not to mention increase nutrient absorption and stabilize insulin and blood sugar levels). Your body loves homeostasis and wants to maintain a certain balance—you literally have to shock it constantly to lose fat and gain muscle over thelong run! There is so much wisdom in "Eat and drink but not to excess" and we should try and follow that especially during Ramadhan.

SAMPLE Ramadhan MEAL PLAN for fat loss and muscle gain
(*This plan is for a 170 lb male, please adjust amounts for bodyweight)

Suhur: Eat 6-8 egg whites (one yolk), one bowl of plain oatmeal w/ cinammon, raisins and a banana1 teaspoon all-natural peanut butter or olive oil or flax seed oil
Plenty of water (16-24 oz.)
Opti-pack by Super Nutrition (one pack) –multi-vitamin/ mineral

Iftar (the evening opening of the fast):
Three Dates and a Nutrition Shake (ZI Diet MRP from VPX Sports, Lean Body byLabrada, or Myoplex from EAS)
Plenty of water

For cardio workouts --Do cardio 45 minutes after this meal for 30-45 minutes at a moderate pace or do a sprint workout if you have less time and then have the next meal before taraweh. (Have a cup of green tea with Iftar on cardio days)

For weight training days: Eat another food meal before Taraweh like chickenbreast (or baked salmon), brown rice and some veggies OR Baked Fish (Salmon, Tuna, Orange Roughy, or Mahi mahi), sweet potato, and a garden salad or some steamed vegetables. Drink plenty of water during taraweh--Go to the gym after taraweh. (If you pray 20 rakahs, then have a protein bar in the middle of taraweh). Drink plenty of water during the workout and you can even have Powerade™ or a sports drink during the workout.

After the workout, have another Nutrition Shake --lots of water of course.Then sleep 45 minutes later or stay up all night eating and working like I do!Following these simple workout and nutrition tips can really help you make great gains during this blessed month.

May God help give us patience and strength in this month and throughout the year and make us strong mentally, internally, spiritually, and physically!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Green Ramadan


Ramadan is a time for holistic healing which includes re-building our relationship with the environment. As khalifas on this earth, we have a responsibility to take care of it. A friend sent a inspiring e-mail with great ideas [see below] and as she put it "reduce your footprint- it's Sunnah".

  • plant a tree/chlorophyll producing plant
  • consume less water ie. try to do wudhu & brush teeth/wash face without the water running!! get a bucket, jug or whatever and fill it with enough water to get the job done.
  • buy only local and organic food/produce
  • walk if you can, or take the bus, or car pool
  • turn off lights you're not using
  • unplug your hairdryer/laptops/chargers/irons/phones etc at night when you go to sleep (or as soon as you've stopped using it)
  • try replace your lights with eco-friendly, energy saving lights
  • try to buy less food and use it all up (In North America, 14$ billion dollars worth of food goes to waste every year)
  • try to get at least one household cleaner that's biodegradeable/phosphate-free!
  • put your dish detergent in a small spray bottle & dilute it with some water (to make the detergent last longer)--this works and also, detergents are grossly concentrated and chances are you'll ingest residue off of your plates and utensils if you don't dilute.
  • use vinegar and baking soda for surface cleaning
  • if you use make-up, use one product that is all natural or preservative-free. La Roch Posay is a good product.
  • don't buy margarine!! stick to butter
  • eat less meat, especially red meat
  • GIVE sadaqa to a good environmental organization or NGO
  • say no to privatized water
  • don't buy bottled water if you can help it
  • if you see litter, pick it up. sounds lame, but we all pass by and don't do nothin' sometimes. don't even front.
  • don't throw recycling in the trash
  • take your own bags grocery shopping
  • don't buy fruit that isn't in season! especially exotic fruit if you can help it.
  • VOTE!!! please register yourself if you are over 18
  • Use rechargable batteries
  • try to use less toilet paper, napkins, etc and buy phosphate-free paper
  • buy recycled paper
  • turn left-over food into a delicious soup .it works marvelously. one of the best meals i ever had was soup at a friend's house and she made it with leftovers.
  • burn beeswax candles or incense (not white-wax, it's toxic!)

..and anything else you can think of, these are just ideas.

Insha'Allah if we all do at least one of the above, we can help lessen the impact of our footprints on this earth

Thursday, September 13, 2007

"Rooting" for Allah

by Hakim Archuletta
September 13, 2007

What an amazing time, Ramadan. I still marvel at how different the experience is every year and how so many people observe with such commitment, a practice that is in some ways so strange and maybe even crazy to anyone looking from the outside. And even for those who find it difficult, no one denies the blessings they always find in Ramadan.

There are such secrets in Ramadan, so much happens in us and such lessons from Allah SWTA for us. One aspect I find unique is the fact that while we can say it is something we do every year; it is, more interestingly, something we do not do. This particular aspect, of it being a unique non –action in some way begins to approximate a truth of our relationship with Allah SWTA. All of our acts of worship and purification are actions, things we do and this one, by not doing in some ways indicates the impossibility of worship as truly befits Allah SWTA. The fact that we express this by not doing, somehow speaks our complete inability to meet such an awesome Reality appropriately. And yet, having said this, at the same time it so very personal! Only Allah in His Wisdom could design such a practice with such perfection for us. In some ways, this represents an essence of our condition - of being created and weak, and yet with the mandate of worship as our only reason for being.

We understand that Ramadan is another practice to purify and cleanse our body spiritually and physically. “The year is a disease and Ramadan is its cure” The Prophet, SAWS said. How is it that? How does it cure? To understand is to help the medicine do its work even though there may be healing simply in the taking of it. If we see healing as a process of becoming whole, then we see it as discovery, change, knowledge and transformation.

Allah is teaching us in Ramadan.

Turning to Him, instead of material things, is an obvious aspect of what we can learn in Ramadan. Turning to remembrance of Him, happens every time we feel hunger and rather than eat, abstain from it. We can look even more closely at what this is might mean. When experiences are particularly meaningful or repeated and we adapt to them accordingly, we call it conditioning or patterning. Immediately after our birth in this world, we experience some major events, instrumental in patterning by virtue of being so primary. First, there is breathing itself, a monumental task we must complete. Depending on its ease or difficulty, it may dramatically affect us and play greatly in our conditioning. All mammals take part in this activity and all have varying degrees of difficulty or ease in it. After the birth and breathing are accomplished, the next impulse designed in us By Allah SWTA is what is called the “rooting” impulse, the drive to find the breast. It happens for us as a kind of sideways, swimming movement naturally towards the breast. We know where it is and even have the impulses in the nerves and muscles to make that journey. Even if the baby is assisted and taken to the breast, or even if taken away, the rooting impulse is there. Some midwives and birthing experts say that the rooting impulse is best allowed to play out to some degree and see it as a valuable developmental experience. Many believe that all of the natural impulses designed in us By Allah, SWTA are best kept as intact as possible, respected and that when thwarted can, by offence to His design, create problems. The rooting experience is a first task in this world, one of seeking and finding! What a primary drive for us all, what an elemental one played out ever after in so many ways.

This impulse, and the pattern in this of i)want, ii) get and iii) ok in suckling then becomes a major part of our life, for those first days, weeks, months and a great part of all we know, and who we are. Along with being held, being cleaned, the new sounds, smells and all else that affect these most primary impulses and feelings, the pattern is begun. Want- Get –OK, three aspects of the pattern that will be with us for years to come.

In Ramadan, this infantile pattern is, ideally, broken and a new pattern allowed to emerge, a new seeking and finding. We no longer need the breast, we no longer need food, no longer need but very little of the material world and we find satisfaction in the closeness of Allah for whom we are fasting in the first place. The fast then becomes for Allah and “for Allah” in the direction in which we turn.

Jalaludin Rumi said “the world is a breast” and for many, the infantile wanting, needing of a breast in the form of someone, something, anything, outside of ourselves continues. This finds its way into such sophisticated, complex and usually confused ways of acting out in which we, at best, only find partial or temporary relief. The seeking of knowledge can even be a seeking of the breast if we hope for its support other than that of Allah SWTA in gaining it.

If we are successful in this turning, we begin to see how the stuff of this world, be it milk, wealth, sex or success, whatever, is not what sustains us, what does is Allah’s Command. At every moment without which we would, in our very bodies with all its complex and miraculous ways of maintaining balance and function, move into annihilation and out of what we call existence. Anyone who studies the body or medicine knows this even if they do not recognize the implications of it. It is not food that sustains us; it is not the material of this world at all. His Protection and Rahmah holds us closer than our mother did to her breast, it continues, and is ongoing, be it in states of hunger, difficulty, ease or pleasure, in conditions of abundance or poverty. “He is closer to you than your carotid artery” Qur’an. How do we forget this?

Want, Get, and feel OK, this is what we start Ramadan with, the “disease of the year”.
One sheikh said, that even the poor are greedy and only for bits of string and beans, beans or Mercedes, string or kingdoms, none bring peace in themselves. We so often speak about “materialism” as Muslims and we preach against it but when it comes down to it, we quickly rush to explain that material wealth is not in conflict with being “spiritual” and that is true, but have you made the courageous journey in turning to Allah, really, and not substituted the things of this world for that turning in yourself? Have you truly found peace in yourself, whatever your material status?

Insha Allah we gain more than hunger and simply “getting through” the month of Ramadan. And when you break your fast, observe how beautiful, how delicious and how satisfying that single date and a small sip of water, taken with family or a dear brother or sister, is. And ask your self: “What is Allah SWTA teaching me here and what is it I really need?”

I recommend, at anytime and as frequent or infrequent as you can (not necessarily during Ramadan) as a lesson, the meal of a simple piece of bread and maybe a few small sips of water. I recommend that this meal be taken with the condiment of reflection and as much recognition and presence of awareness of the incredible reality in this simple action as a means to awaken the sense in ourselves of the truth of our reality. This is presence with the self, with what Allah SWAT has created in ourselves, presence with the awesome process that took place in the growth of the plant that gave the seed that produced the flour that was made into bread and that by His command and as a portion of our rizq arrives before us with our name on it. As seasoning I suggest an awareness of the thousands and thousands of nerves, in place by His Design, enabling such taste and smell in that experience, knowing that this simple piece of bread is so much more than that so we might then say, with genuine honesty, maybe in a way that once and for all we truly mean, by certainty, Alhamdulillah!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Grains of the Prophet

by Karima Burns, MH, ND

There is a famous Hadith reported by Abu Hurairah that, "Allah never inflicts a disease unless he makes a cure for it..." (Sahih Bukhari). While some of us may assume that this cure is always in the form of a medicine or herbs, the Hadith does not state that. In fact, two of the greatest cures Allah has given us for heart disease are foods that the Prophet (SAW) ate: whole wheat and barley. Both provide multiple benefits in the fight against heart disease as they both lower cholesterol, increase proper elimination of wastes by the body, facilitate proper blood clotting, and improve general circulation and cellular health.

When Sahl bin Sad was asked, "Did Allah's Apostle ever eat white flour?" he replied, "Allah's Apostle never saw white flour [from the time] Allah sent him as an Apostle till He took him unto Him." Modern science has long been against processed breads, even when they are supposedly "enriched." E. Cheraskin, in his book Diet and Disease, compares enriching white flour with "robbing someone in a dark alley of their clothes and wallet, and then giving them back their underclothes and bus money to get home." In addition to the fact that white flour has no nutritional value, it can leech vitamins and minerals from the body as well. This is because nutrient-void foods do not supply all of the nutrients that are needed for their digestion; hence, they must take the nutrients that are lacking from the body.

White flour can even mimic white sugar, creating problems for the hypoglycemic or diabetic person (Pritchard, Healing with Whole Foods). According to nutritionists Jean Anderson and Barbara Deskin, whole-wheat flour, high in protein and fiber, is far superior in nutrition to white flour. Whole grain wheat contains a large amount of Vitamin E, mostly concentrated in its germ layer. Research on the Vitamin E found in wheat discovered that of 31,000 people studied, those who ate whole wheat bread had a much lower risk of heart disease than those who ate white bread. Michael H. Davidson, MD, president of the Chicago Center for Clinical Research, says that this is because the Vitamin E in wheat causes the liver to produce less cholesterol. He found that subjects in his study who consumed ½-cup of wheat germ daily for 14 weeks saw their cholesterol levels drop by seven percent.

Although wheat has undeniable health benefits, we need to be aware of the dangers of its overuse. Eaten daily, whole wheat can be detrimental to the health as it causes bloating in many people and often encourages the growth of unfriendly (candida albicanus) bacteria in the colon. It can also encourage weight gain and cause allergic reactions in many people when overeaten.It is revealing that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) did not indulge in regular wheat consumption, but ate instead mostly barley and bread made from barley flour. Abu Hazim narrated (in Sahih Bukhari) that he asked the Prophet (SAW), "Did you use to sift barley flour?" The Prophet answered, "No, but we used to blow off the husk (of the barley)." Barley is so easily digested that the Prophet even recommended that barley soup (talbiyah) be used for all stomach ailments (Sahih Bukhari).

Possessing even more health benefits than wheat, barley is extremely high in calcium and protein, and is far less allergenic. It does not encourage bloating or unhealthy bacterial growth; therefore, while wheat is healthful, barley is better for daily consumption. One of the richest sources of tocotrienols, powerful antioxidants that help reduce damage to the body from dangerous oxygen molecules called free radicals, barley also reduces the body’s production of cholesterol in the liver. David Jenkins, MD, professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto says, “Tocotrienols are potentially more powerful antioxidants than other chemical versions of vitamin E.” Barley is also a lot more affordable than most vitamin E supplements on the market. Furthermore, it contains lignana, found to prevent tiny blood clots from forming – perhaps providing a similar benefit to the recently popular “daily dose of aspirin” against heart disease. Just one-half cup of barley contains half the daily requirement for selenium in the diet and almost twenty-percent of the USRDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) of Vitamin E. Both of these have been found to be powerful allies in the fight against cancer.

Barley also contains beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber that forms a gel in the small intestine to which cholesterol binds and is then excreted from the body. This gel forming action also prevents constipation and colon cancer. To get barley’s healing benefits, it is recommended by health experts that it be eaten in the same way that the Prophet (SAW) did. Hulled barley (the husk loosely intact or “blown off”) is superior to processed barley which has been cleaned and scrubbed more than five times to create a quicker-cooking version that lacks most of barley’s healthful fiber, minerals and thiamin.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Spring Cleaning

by Hakim Archuletta

Spring Cleaning

It’s happening here in New Mexico.

When it does it’s truly an ecstatic time. Nature, after long months of sobriety, of containment and reserve can no longer keep it in. Branches and twigs become tumescent first, swell and finally burst forth their green ejaculate and eventually, seed. All life behaves by such similar patterns, no wonder it’s a time that represents youth, joy, love, blood, awakening and sexual exuberance.

The first signs happen when the air temperature raises enough to heat the ground and it brings smells from the earth, from the leaves and humus that has lain, set and decayed, quietly waiting for this time. Whether we are conscious of it or not or whether we are in a place in which this takes place in a way that we can recognize easily, our body responds to the smells and the fumes that envelop us.

For those fortunate to be where these natural events happen easily, that is, where an overabundance of concrete or asphalt or harsh structures does not interrupt this awakening, not only does our nose responds but our ears, skin and senses in general, all do exactly as the world around us does. And as always there is a perfect correspondence. All we find outside of us and what happens inside of us, the more we are in tune and aware with genuine Hamd (praise), the more perfect it is the mirror of ourselves.

Here in hew Mexico it’s all very exposed; lots of natural earth surface to bathe us in fragrance, but even in Los Angeles with most of the ground covered over to accommodate autos, even there, the asphalt sends out it attar, after all, it too was pulled up from the ground, juice, thick and blood like from the earth. And even though it sits in bizarre strips across our landscape like scabs, it too feels the spring.

And even though we may not stop to drink in these phenomena of season change or even be able to sense it, we are affected, and we should be. It sets into action the processes in our bodies needed to deal with the warmth and quality of our new world that will be filled with more activity, with flowers and eventually fruit. Our blood knows it, our liver knows it. Our lungs send the subtle smells into the blood and they awaken all they reach and the same process is enacted within, tulips of hormones, and grass blades of enzymes on the inner landscape. This in turn even changes our speech, our appetites, even our gait. One Hakim said “our senses write our impressions on our blood and our blood in turn on our perceptions”

As this happens our body fluids need to change. This is a time that our bodies no longer need the same kind of fluids as in fall and winter. Our oils and other body fluids will flow more easily and thin out, like olive oil that congeals in the fridge and becomes fluid in the warmth
Our ability to manage this change was traditionally looked upon as an indication of our resilience in health and the “colds” and flu’s that come at this time are for many simply the struggle to make the changes and with some minor “colds” only the change of fluids natural to the season.

There is also the trickery that challenges our wisdom, especially here in New Mexico yesterday, 78 degrees and maybe more, the motorcycles out cruising, people in shorts and light clothing, windows now open. At last! They think. The challenge is that while it’s spring, it is more of a giving of notice first and the wise will keep warm clothes and not fall prey to a false security and suffer the cold of winter that still remains.

This is time for spring cleaning, more light, more color, more activity, incentive to sweep out the back room, the shed. It’s also a time to do the same for our bodies. One of my wiser friends is already on a spring “cleansing fast” and there many ways to do this.
A Chinese practice in the spring I learned from a family I knew was to make, in the spring, greens soup, any three greens in a broth and eat only that for a day, or more. The entire family would take part and it was a yearly thing that also bonded them, even more so if it was difficult at all. They looked forward to it because they knew they would feel well from it. It can be made with any three greens they say and in a chicken or meat broth and with ginger as well but is basically only greens. My friend who is more inclined to strict discipline is making his spring fast ten days!

My teacher was inclined to caution against being too tough so as not to cause a negative result. The point is to respond to the spirit of the season, to get everything moving, flowing, not to starve. Although, for so many in this country, unfortunately , there is an enormous amount of toxic materials that have built up from poor food, overeating and complacency, stagnant too long, Still, it’s wise also to be moderate unless , like my friend, you have done it and know how much you can manage.

As the season moves further along and fruits begin to come in, it gets better! Hippocrates said fruit was medicine. In the “Mono Fast”, you take only the one fruit as it comes in and only that, for one day, even half a day, or for the ones who are sure they can manage it, one day on one day off for three full days. The fruit needed for the specific cleansing and rejuvenating of different parts comes in one by one by Allah’s design. And you eat a good amount, a bowl at a meal and only that. They must all be grown as soundly as possible, organic as they say and preferably locally grown. From the back yard is ideal of course.

First come the cherries, for the blood, then the peaches, yellow ones first and then the fragrant, almost intoxicating white ones, for the liver and digestive tract. Then come the apricots for the lower intestines and bowels. The generosity of Allah’s design here is that these medicines are not only effective, they are delicious! They should be tree ripened. This is an important point in a time where many have never eaten a ripened fruit, the result of supermarkets and a profit oriented big food business as well as a culture that has lost it senses in more way than one.

By the way if you should try this greens soup, one day, half day or even three, feel adventurous and want to get optimal benefit, try drinking it from the bowl without a spoon getting in the way. Don’t ask why but it’s a secret that makes it more effective.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Manners of Eating

Imam al-Ghazali on the Manners of Eating

Islamic Manners: The Proper Manners of Eating

The Sunna of Food & Drink

Mines Action Canada