Health Expert EJ Okolo on Fitness & Nutrition

EJ Okolo is a fitness trainer at Train Elite in Philadelphia. As part of the Lifeway IG Live Self-care Sessions, EJ energizes the Lifeway community with his high-intensity workouts and passion. His career in fitness began in high school sports and he’s enriched his personal training career by studying health science and exercise physiology at La Salle University. Follow him on Instagram at @ej_trainelite and make sure to catch his live workouts and bonus nutrition tips on the @lifewaykefir Instagram.

What got you interested in pursuing a fitness career?

Growing up, in high school I was an athlete. I played basketball, I played football, and in the off season we had to make sure we stayed in shape. At first it was a chore, you know, 16 years old, you want to be with your friends, you want to have fun, but as I got older and grew into my body, I really started to enjoy it. So fast forward, I go to college and get a bachelor’s in health science and exercise physiology so I’m able to combine my experience in personal training with my understanding of chemistry, biology, and anatomy.

What are a few of your go-to fitness and nutrition tips?

One thing with fitness is to get the most out of your time. I tend to pair workouts and exercises with multiple moves, so super-sets and tri-sets. Essentially, say we’re doing jumping jacks for 30 seconds. Now normally after that 30 seconds is up, in a normal training program, you would rest for like 10 seconds, gather our breath and go again. But what I tend to do in order to maximize our time is move on to another move right after that first move, and then another move, and then we’ll rest. So it’s really taxing metabolically and it forces your body to use a lot of fats they have as energy because we don’t burn through carbs almost immediately during the workout so we burned through our observe of carbs. Now we’re tapping into our fat reserves to break down and use as energy. So instead of us doing one move, I tend to do two or three at a time and then a break and then continue that over the course of the workout just to get the most out of our time.

With nutrition, it’s always easier to omit bad foods as opposed to add good foods. A lot of people have different lifestyles and socioeconomic backgrounds so it’s not realistic to expect anyone to be able to eat Sweetgreen or healthy alternatives. What I always say is start with what you can control. No added sugars, no high-fructose corn syrup, no added salts, no processed foods, no fried foods. Things like that so that you can start to see the omission of those foods can do for your body and how it makes you feel, more energy, more clarity. And then from there you start to see that we can go into learning how to eat whole foods, real foods, foods with nutritional value.

How have you incorporated kefir into your diet?

Kefir is really, really important because I don’t take protein supplements, so I get my protein from my food and my drinks and kefir is a great source of protein. So instead of me having to figure out where I’m going to get protein after a workout, (kefir is) the first thing I’m going to because it has casein in it, which is a slow-digesting protein, it’ll allow me to synthesize muscle tissue long after the workout has been over and completed so that’s another reason why I like it as well.

What is your favorite post-workout smoothie recipe?

½ cup strawberry kefir
½ cup coconut water
½ cup kale
½ cup spinach
½ banana
¼ cup steel cut oats
frozen pineapple, as much as desired
frozen strawberries, as much as desired

Why did you choose the charity Philadelphia Bail Fund as your fundraiser?

The main reason was to show support for anyone that was peacefully protesting who may have been arrested. I think it’s amazing that so many people from all walks of life have decided to stand up and fight racial oppression together. With the bail fund, the goal is to help anyone who may not have the means to help themselves should they get into legal trouble.