Ngo Okafor, a NYC-based trainer who has worked with J.Lo, shares his tips for making the most of your workouts outside of the gym.

Lauren Wicks
February 13, 2020
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Ngo Okafor is a two-time Golden Gloves champion for boxing, a partner with Nike's Nike+NYC Training Program and the founder of Iconoclast Fitness in Manhattan. Okafor's impressive resume has earned him an A-list client roster, including Jennifer Lopez and Brooke Shields. He shared his top tips for getting his clients ready for the red carpet, and how we might be going about getting in shape the wrong way.

You're Eating Until You're Stuffed, Not Satisfied

"When you're satisfied, the body has consumed enough nutrients to work efficiently," Okafor says. "Feeling full is an emotional feeling. It is vital to know the difference between the two and adjust."

Eating until one is satisfied is common practice among people living in the blue zone regions—the areas of the world where people live the longest, healthiest lives. The blue zone region of Okinawa, Japan, has a term called hara hachi bu, which means one eats until they are 80% full. This shifts the focus to no longer feeling hungry, instead of feeling full.

He also advises slowing down during meals to be able to check in with your hunger and fullness cues. It might take some time to discover your personal feelings of satisfaction when eating, but eating slowly—and undistracted—should help. You might find this simple lifestyle change will help you consume fewer calories and enjoy your meals more.

You're Counting Calories, Macros, or Following a Restrictive Diet Plan

Okafor doesn't buy into the crazy diet plans, and you should definitely be wary of restricting your caloric intake if you engage in regular exercise. Becoming too preoccupied with your diet can make you stressed and even lead to cravings for food that is "off-limits."

Okafor makes sure his clients prioritize lean protein sources and vegetables at meal times, as they help keep you full for hours. It's also important to utilize complex carbohydrates, like whole grains and fruit, for long-lasting energy.

You're Not Drinking Enough Water

It's just as important to get a post-workout beverage in as a snack or meal. Okafor skips the sports drinks and opts for water. He also advises sticking to low-calorie beverages throughout the day if you get bored with water (think: seltzer or unsweetened coffee and tea). Sugary beverages like soda and fancy coffee drinks can make you feel sluggish and keep you from seeing the results you want.

It's worth investing in a reusable water bottle, so you can stay hydrated all day long. Thankfully, your favorite bubbly water fix counts towards your daily water consumption, as seltzer still hydrates the body.

You Need a Booze Break

Dry January may be over, but there's never a bad time to cut back on alcohol. While we believe alcohol can be part of a healthy diet, Okafor says it can hurt your progress towards getting in shape. Drinking alcohol can leave you feeling dehydrated, sluggish and can even lead to cravings if you've had too much. Okafor prefers his clients obtain most or all of their calories from food, and some alcoholic beverages are high in sugar. J.Lo follows this rule, and it certainly works for her!