“Carbs are not bad, it’s the balance that is key,” says Claire Kinuthia, who has shaped her body to perfection through exercises and healthy eating.
She is sipping something she describes as a power smoothie. In it are oats, almond milk, bananas and other things blended that she does not remember.
What she is clear about is that the mixture packs lots of carbohydrates, something hundreds of fitness enthusiasts discourage if you are looking to lose fat and get lean.
But to the obstetrician and gynaecologist, cutting out carbohydrates from your diet is a misconception.
“People run away from carbs and I think it’s a misunderstanding because everything is carbs. Even fruits and vegetables that people take in plenty are carbs,” Dr Kinuthia says.
“It is what your intake is versus key output, especially for cardiovascular health. If you are over-consuming anything, not just carbohydrates, it would be turned into glucose and fats. So everything should be in moderation," she says.
Since childhood, the 39-year-old has always been active, but as she ages, she has intensified her workouts.
She was found to have fibroids a few years ago and since then she has been training in different ways; running, hiking, and taking long walks. But these days, she prefers the gym where she does full-body workouts every day instead of the isolation exercises such as leg days.
I find her doing sandbag walking lunges that tone her lower legs, a sledge push, and a functional full-body exercise that targets the lower body muscles. They also help build strength and agility. She will then exercise on a T-bar row machine to exercise her back before finishing with a Russian twist to tighten her abdominal muscles.
To remain fit, she gives tips on what you must do, especially if you are a newbie.
The 30-minute rule
Is sitting for long hours the new smoking? I ask Dr Kinuthia.
"That’s true. You only need 30 minutes of active physical activity of any kind to stay healthy. Most people give excuses of how busy their office work is but the truth is they can create 30 minutes for a physical activity.
I tell my patients if they have an office job, they at least walk up and down the stairs in your building during lunch break. When using the bathroom try and find the furthest one in the building. Get your heart rate up a little bit. Stop using lifts," she says.
She adds, "If you have ample space, run around your compound for just 30 minutes. You don’t need the gym, the key thing is to get moving. But also remember to eat quality foods."
Struggle with endometriosis
Being an ob-gyn, she has found herself prescribing exercises and changes of diet to her patients.
"For example, I suffer from two conditions; fibroids and endometriosis which is a very painful condition. Outside medicine, hormone replacement and surgery is a lifestyle change. What you eat and the kind of exercises you do can help manage the pain significantly," she says.
Another condition that benefits from exercise is Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
"Women with PCOS struggle with weight because they are glucose intolerant, thus their bodies aren’t able to process it like the rest of us. So they might end up gaining weight despite eating right," Dr Kinuthia says.
What of menopause?
For older women, they benefit a lot from exercise because the loss of estrogen during menopause comes with weight gain.
"For those in their reproductive age and struggling with fertility issues, an active lifestyle of quality food plays a much bigger role than medication," she says, adding that even when doing In vitro fertilisation (IVF), one needs to have normal body mass index (BMI), meaning that the body fat based on height and weight is okay.
Being overweight also increases the risk of getting acne, both in girls and older women.
Is exercising good for a pregnant woman?
Dr Kinuthia says it is important that one remains active throughout their pregnancy.
"Everything changes during pregnancy. The way the heart supplies blood to the body, the amount doubles because of the baby. The way your body stores and expends fat also changes. Your metabolism is higher. This means if you do not fuel your body properly and exercise, your body will be depleted quickly. Walk. Swim. Do low-impact exercises that cannot cause injury," she says.
"A baby in medical terms is a ‘parasite’ that will be sustained regardless of the state of the ‘container’ (mother). It doesn’t matter how your body looks, the baby will always be given priority. If the baby needs iron or calcium, it will take it from the mother without care for her condition. A pregnant woman should therefore eat consciously," she adds.
Dr Kinuthia also talks about obesity and young adults.
"You'd think people in their 40s would be the most inactive. But look at those in their 20s. How many times do you walk in malls and see overweight children? We are to blame. We feed them junk food. They grow up knowing it’s okay to eat junk instead of wholesome meals.
Look at people in their 20s and 30s, working, constantly ordering junk foods, never making time to be active, spending hours seated in pubs," Dr Kinuthia says.