Nutrition

5 Fat Loss Tips for 2019

Here are 5 tips to help you lose fat and KEEP IT OFF in 2019.

Track Your Intake

The most important factor for losing fat is creating a caloric deficit (that is, burning more calories than you consume). Counting your calories and macros will not only help you create that deficit, it will give you a much better idea of what you’re actually eating on a daily basis. Download MyFitnessPal and get to tracking.

Prepare Your Meals

Meal prep makes life (and losing weight) easier. Eating out for every meal, even when you’re trying to be “healthy”, sets you up for constant temptation and mindless calories. Set aside a few hours per week to prepare your food to take all of the day-to-day guessing out of it.

Strength Train 3x Per Week

Strength training is the best way to transform your body. Not running. Not cycling. Not OrangeTheory.

Lifting.

Three training sessions per week is more than enough to build some solid muscle and accelerate the fat burning process.

Be More Active Throughout the Day

Activity throughout the day is the most underrated and overlooked aspect of fat loss. Thirty minutes of cardio can only do so much when you sit on your ass for 10+ hours per day. Download a Pedometer app and shoot for 10,000 steps per day (it’s actually a lot), take regular walking breaks at work, and consider switching to a standing desk.

Ditch the Scale

Weighing yourself on the scale can be a decent indicator of fat loss progress, but it can also be the cause of a ton of unnecessary stress and anxiety. If you have an unhealthy relationship with the scale, toss it. Instead, look to other very important measures of progress, such as how you feel throughout the day, how your clothes fit, how you perform in the gym, and how you look in the mirror.

3 Protein Myths Athletes Need to Stop Believing

This article was originally written for STACK.


Adequate protein consumption is necessary for any athlete. Not only does it help build muscle, but it can aid in losing fat, maintaining strong connective tissues and improving the quality of bones and skin. Unfortunately, there is a ton of confusion out there about protein.

How much protein should I eat?

When is the best time to eat protein?

Will protein make me gain weight?

Are certain protein sources better than others?

As people have began asking more questions about protein, there's been a rise in misinformation, uncertainty and confusion. Fortunately, we now have more answers. Many of the previous "guidelines" surrounding protein have now been proven as myths, and we now have a much clearer picture of what is and what is not important when it comes to dosing this vital macronutrient.

With that in mind, here are three big protein myths you need to stop believing.

1. Your Body Can Only Absorb 20 Grams of Protein at One Time

This might be the single-most popular protein myth. It generally goes as follows: "Your body can only absorb 20 grams of protein at one time, and the rest is stored as fat. This means that you need to eat at least 6-7 times a day to "stoke the metabolic fire" and make the most of your meals."

It sounds convincing enough, but the truth is that protein is not all digested at one time. There are many different "speeds" of protein, and while some are fast-acting and are absorbed quickly, others take much longer. When protein is consumed with other macronutrients, carbohydrates and fat, the absorption time of the protein is delayed. Also, the body will not store the vast majority (99%) of excess protein as fat. If protein is not absorbed by muscle, it is used for building other vital body tissues, oxidized for energy, or broken down and excreted. Having said that, 40 grams of protein in a sitting is plenty if your goal is muscle protein synthesis, but consuming beyond that isn't necessarily "a waste"—on the contrary, it can serve some pretty useful purposes around the body.

Total protein consumption throughout the day is more important than how much you have at any given meal.

Shooting for 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day is a reasonable target. In an ideal situation, aim to split daily protein equally throughout all meals. So if you're a 160-pound athlete who has four meals per day, 40 grams of protein per meal is a great goal.

2. You Need Protein Immediately Post-Workout or You Won't Build Muscle

The myth: "The 30-minute post-workout 'anabolic window' is the ideal time for gains. If you don't chug a protein shake within that time frame, your workout was useless, and you can kiss all of that potential muscle gain goodbye."

No doubt you've heard something similar from your local meathead. Now, time for the facts.

Most importantly, total protein consumption throughout the day reigns supreme.

Working out spikes muscle protein synthesis for an extended period of time (as much as 24 hours or so), so as long as you are adequately fueling your body throughout the day, you're in good shape. Having a hearty pre-workout meal a few hours before training also delays the necessity for anything immediately post-workout (and can make you feel stronger and more energized during the training session).

Consuming some protein post-workout may still be a good practice, but it's definitely not the be-all and end-all, and it doesn't need to come within a magic "window." Plan to have a protein-packed meal or shake within 2-3 hours post-training to begin refueling and rebuilding. The only situation in which you want to prioritize more immediate post-workout protein is if you are training "fasted" (first thing in the morning or more than 4 hours since your previous meal). In that case, try to snack on something as soon as possible post-workout.

3. You'll Never Get Serious Muscle Without Protein Powder

The myth: "Protein powder is essential to building muscle. All of the top bodybuilders and athletes use it, so it must be necessary."

Once again, the facts tell a different story.

And again, the number one fact that debunks this myth is that total protein consumption throughout the day is what's most important.

While protein powder can be a cheap and efficient way to meet your daily protein requirement, it definitely is not a necessity. If you are getting adequate protein from other sources (meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, greek yogurt, cottage cheese, etc.), then you don't need to take protein powder.

Since most people have a hard time meeting their daily protein requirements (about 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight), I still believe protein powder can be a valuable supplement to help you hit that number. But, at the end of the day, that's what protein powder is—a supplement. The vast majority of your nutrients should still come from real food. As a rule of thumb, try not to exceed 1-2 scoops of protein powder per day. And if you're a high school athlete reading this, just eat more lean meat.

6 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Trying Intermittent Fasting

This article was originally written for STACK.

Intermittent fasting (IF) is a diet, or rather a style of eating, in which you don't eat for an extended period of time and consolidate all of your meals to specified eating window.

There are many types of IF, but for the sake of this article we'll focus on the LeanGains approach. This method calls for a daily 16-hour fast and 8-hour eating window.

Intermittent fasting has been an effective tool for fat loss in many cases and reportedly has many other physiological benefits. However, at the end of the day, IF is just that—a tool. It is a way to restrict calories and manage hunger.

For many, including myself, this tool has worked extremely well. For others, not so much.

So how do you know if intermittent fasting will work for you? Here are a few questions (to ask yourself) to steer you in the right direction.

Am I trying to lose weight?

Yes, I am: Intermittent fasting is an effective way to restrict calories, which ultimately can drive fat loss. Congrats, IF might be for you!

No, I'm not: While it is certainly possible to gain healthy weight while fasting (bulk up), it's extremely difficult because of the amount of calories you have to consume in a restricted period. Sorry, IF might not be for you. (This includes you, pregnant women.)

Am I a competitive athlete?

Yes, I am: Competitive athletes who train multiple times a day, or for an extended period of time (2-plus hours), are not ideal candidates for IF because the restricted eating schedule does not allow the athlete to properly recover from the intense activity. Sorry, IF might not be for you.

No, I'm not: If you exercise regularly, but do so at a moderate to intense level and are not a high-level competitor, then you will be fine. Congrats, IF might be for you!

Do I have a physically demanding job?

Yes, I do: Hard, physical labor can be just as, if not more, taxing as a hard training session. Not eating for a portion of that work day could put you at risk for a host of problems, the very least of which is underperforming. Sorry, IF might not be for you.

No, I don't: If you are sitting down indoors for the majority of your work day, then IF shouldn't pose any issues (other than the occasional stomach growling). Congrats, IF might be for you!

Do I prefer many small meals or few big meals?

Many small meals: Because IF restricts your eating window to (in this case) 8 hours, it will be difficult to fit in more than 3-4 meals. And if the meals are too small, you risk undereating. Sorry, IF might not be for you.

Few big meals: Most people who partake in intermittent fasting find success with 2-3 meals per day with the occasional snack in between. Because of this, those meals tend to be considerably larger than normal. Congrats, IF might be for you!

Do I enjoy breakfast?

Yes, I do: While it's totally possible to start your eating window first thing in the morning and end it early in the afternoon, it isn't ideal (mainly for social reasons). Most people start their eating window around noon, effectively skipping breakfast. Sorry, IF might not be for you.

No, I don't: Many of the people who find success with IF are those who already skip breakfast. And no, despite what the ads of the early 90's would have you believe, breakfast is NOT the most important meal of the day. Congrats, IF might be for you!

Do I have a history of disordered eating?

Yes, I do: Pump the brakes. Before worrying about the intricacies of intermittent fasting, focus on the general principles of good nutrition like eating real, whole foods. Once you have a handle on that, then you can consider it. Sorry, IF might not be for you.

No, I don't: If you have a healthy relationship with food, understand basic nutrition, and aren't looking for a quick fix, proceed. Congrats, IF might be for you!

While these questions can't definitively determine if intermittent fasting is right for you, hopefully they give you an idea of the kind of lifestyle that the diet lends itself to. As previously stated, IF is a tool. It's not a magic fat loss solution or quick fix scheme. But it does work, and it just might work for you.

Fats You Should Be Eating!

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This article was originally written for MYPROTEIN.


For decades, high-fat foods were the black sheep of the fitness industry. It was believed that “fats make you fat”, and as a result they were avoided like the plague.

The logic was simple- fats have 9 calories per gram while protein and carbs have 4 calories per gram. Therefore, fewer fats equal fewer calories which equals weight loss.

Unfortunately, these once-popular “low-fat” diets neglected the fact that the removal of healthy fats often meant the addition of heavily processed, sugary carbs. These fads were also based on the concept of operating at a pretty major caloric deficit over long periods of time- simply eating less, not eating healthy.

While eating next to nothing will make you drop a few pounds right off the bat, it’s not sustainable and will ultimately result in gaining all (if not more) of the weight back.

The Resurgence of Fats

Luckily, fats have had a major resurgence in recent years thanks to the Paleo Diet, Ketogenic Diet, Bulletproof Diet, and other higher fat proponents. Healthy fats coming from whole, unprocessed, natural sources can not only help you lose weight, they have the ability to:

  • Regulate hormones

  • Reduce inflammation

  • Increase libido

  • Improve brain, heart, bone, skin, and eye health

  • Raise HDL (good cholesterol) levels and reduce LDL (bad cholesterol) levels

  • Strengthen the immune system

  • Reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases

Best of all about fatty foods – they taste great. Here are 5 fatty foods that you should add to your diet immediately, how to implement them, and their macronutrient breakdown:

Avocados

Considered a “superfood”, the avocado is one of the healthiest things you can eat. While most fruits are high in sugar and carbs, avocados are low in sugar and high in monounsaturated fat. They’re packed with essential nutrients such as potassium (more than a banana) and fiber.

Avocado makes just about any meal better. You can spread it on toast, mix it in a salad, or smash it up to make guacamole. Three delicious ways to incorporate avocado into your regular diet are:

  • Sliced on top of an egg and spinach omelet

  • Diced with ground beef and sauteed veggies

  • Whole, with cottage cheese and Sriracha (a perfect snack before bed)

Macros

  • Calories = 120

  • Fat = 10 g

  • Carbs = 6 g

  • Protein = 1 g

*Per 1/2 medium avocado

Unsalted Nuts (and Nut Butters)

Nuts are an easy, go-to snack. At a gas station, on the golf course, or at the baseball stadium, nuts are a healthy option in not-so-optimal situations. Almonds, walnuts, cashews, peanuts, pecans, pistachios, and more provide a solid dose of healthy fat along with essential minerals like iron, zinc, and selenium.

While nuts in their standard form are great, nut butters (like peanut and almond butter) are also incredibly healthy. With either option, just keep an eye on the sodium and sugar content. Here are some ways to eat more nuts:

  • Pecans sprinkled on top of plain Greek yogurt with some berries and honey.

  • Almond butter mixed with oatmeal and protein powder (overnight oats).

  • Peanut butter, protein powder, and banana smoothie.

Macros

  • Calories = 160

  • Fat = 14 g

  • Carbs = 7 g

  • Protein = 5 g

*Per 1/4 cup of unsalted mixed nuts (cashews, almonds, pistachios, pecans)

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Olive oil has been regarded as one of the healthiest foods on Earth for centuries, dating back to the days of ancient Greece and even before. A cornerstone of the popular Mediterranean Diet, olive oil is loaded with powerful antioxidants that do everything from reduce inflammation to protect against cardiovascular disease.

Always use extra-virgin, as other types of olive oil are not nearly as healthy. Olive oil can easily be added to your diet by:

  • Using it as a dressing for salads.

  • Cooking with it

  • Adding a serving to a protein shake for extra calories

Macros

  • Calories = 120

  • Fat = 14 g

  • Carbs = 0 g

  • Protein = 0 g

*Per 1 tbsp. of extra-virgin olive oil

Grass-Fed Beef

Grass-fed beef should be a staple item for anyone trying to gain muscle and lose fat. It has a ton of protein and contains all 8 essential amino acids. In addition to vitamins and minerals like zinc and iron, grass-fed beef is rich in CLA and creatine.

A lot of people nowadays have a misinformed notion that red meat is unhealthy, and that to build muscle and lose fat they must eat only white meat. This is simply untrue, and those who don’t eat beef are missing out on a host of benefits not found in chicken or turkey. Stick to grass-fed beef options like these for a powerful dose of protein and healthy animal fat:

  • Steak (loins or rounds)

  • Lean ground beef (85% lean or better)

  • Beef pot roast (slow cooked in a Crock-Pot)

Macros

  • Calories = 240

  • Fat = 17 g

  • Carbs = 0 g

  • Protein = 21 g

*Per 4 oz. grass-fed ground beef (85% lean)

Butter

Butter IS good for you. There, I said it. I’m not talking about margarine. I’m not talking about that stuff they pour on your popcorn at the movie theater. I’m talking about raw, grass-fed, straight-from-the-cow butter. The real stuff has lots of fat-soluble nutrients including Vitamin K2 (heart health) and butyrate (anti-inflammatory).

Butter was the main antagonist in the “fat is evil” tirade of the past, but thankfully it’s beginning to have a resurgence. Consider this: In 1910, butter consumption was 18 pounds per capita and heart disease rates were below 10%. In 2000, butter consumption was less than 4 pounds per capita and heart disease was the cause of nearly 1 in 4 deaths. So lose the butter-phobia and add it back into your diet like this:

  • Put it on steamed vegetables.

  • Melt it on steak.

  • Add a scoop to morning coffee.

Macros

  • Calories = 100

  • Fat = 12 g

  • Carbs = 0 g

  • Protein = 0 g

*Per 1 tbsp. grass-fed butter

Take Home Message

The age of fearing fat is over. Quality fats from natural sources help maintain a strong physique, functional brain, and healthy heart. Be sure to eat fats in moderation. As previously mentioned, fat has 9 calories per gram, so a little bit goes a long way. A couple hundred calories-worth of nuts could quickly turn into a full blown meal if you’re not careful. But as long as you control your portions, these fats are a great addition to any diet.

Issues With IIFYM

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This article was originally written for MYPROTEIN.

IIFYM stands for “If It Fits Your Macros.”

IIFYM is a diet- or way of eating- that has gained enormous popularity in recent years due, in part, to people glorifying it on social media.

At it’s core, IIFYM is actually a pretty reasonable approach to dieting and has some practical applications. Unfortunately, people have taken the idea way too far and are practicing habits that could seriously endanger their health. Below, I’ll explain exactly what IIFYM is, some of my issues with it, and a more sound approach to nutrition.

What is IIFYM?

The foundation of IIFYM is simple: determine a daily caloric requirement for your given goal, break that number down into a designated amount of protein/carbs/fat (the three MACROnutrients), and eat food to satisfy those requirements.

This idea is based on the principle that weight loss or weight gain is based on calories in versus calories out. If you burn more calories than you consume (a caloric deficit), then you’ll lose weight. In theory, this is true.

IIFYM can technically fit any “diet”. Vegan, vegetarian, or paleo, as long as you hit your macro targets, you’ll lose weight. Your protein can come from black beans, chicken breasts, or hot dogs. Your carbs can come from fruit, vegetables, or french fries. If it fits, it fits.

That’s where things get ugly.

I believe IIFYM was originally created to allow people who follow strict diets a little more “wiggle room” to eat some comfort foods while still making progress toward their fitness goals. But now, people have taken it to the extreme and will eat just about anything if it fits their macros.

The Issues With IIFYM

Binge Eating

One of the popular approaches to IIFYM is saving the vast majority of calories for a major “cheat meal”. People will eat very little to nothing at all throughout the day in order to a fit pizza into their macros.

Neglecting to eat sufficient calories throughout the day and then going all out on one meal could cause some major issues. Your workouts could suffer, your mood could become unstable, and when it comes down to it, you put yourself in danger of habitually binging and over-eating.

Instead, practice a more consistent daily eating schedule. Eat regular meals comprised of protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates throughout the day. You will stay fuller for longer and will be less likely to have an all out binge later at night.

Lack of Micronutrients

The appeal of IIFYM is usually the fact that you can eat a bunch of junk food and still “follow” the plan. Unfortunately, that train of thought completely neglects micronutrients.

People will track protein, carbs, and fat religiously, but totally fail to recognize the importance of vitamins, minerals, and fiber as part of a healthy diet. Disregarding these micronutrients not only negatively impacts the fat burning and muscle building processes in the body, it creates deficiencies that could weaken your immune system and leave you susceptible to diseases.

Plant and animal based foods are chock full of essential micronutrients, while processed foods are typically void of them. So even if you are following an IIFYM approach, make sure your meals are comprised mostly of vegetables, fruits, animal proteins, nuts, and seeds.

Obsessive Weighing, Counting & Tracking

As I mentioned earlier, IIFYM is based on creating daily caloric and macronutrient requirements and hitting those numbers consistently. And while this approach can work, that’s exactly what it entails- WORK.

You have to track every meal.

Measure all of your portions.

Add up all of your macros.

It becomes a lifestyle. A lifestyle that, I believe, is not sustainable for a long period of time.

Becoming obsessive with calories and macros is a slippery slope, and could become detrimental to your health and your social life. I mean, do you really want to have to pull out your phone at dinner with friends to find out how many wings you’re allowed to have?

I think the more practical approach is to simply eat real food 90% of the time. Vegetables, fruits, meat, eggs, nuts, seeds, and earth-grown starches will supply adequate amounts of protein, carbs, and fat.

While you definitely can overeat any of these foods and gain weight, you’d be hard pressed to do it. I don’t know many people who got fat eating too much chicken and broccoli.

The other 10% of the time, eat whatever you want. A couple times a week, enjoy the occasional “cheat meal”. But leave it just at that.

Take Home Message

While it’s certainly possible to follow an IIFYM diet and live a healthy lifestyle, many of the characteristics associated with the approach are particularly dangerous. Binge eating, the lack of micronutrients, and the obsessive food tracking are just a few of the habits that could be a major detriment to your progress in the gym. Instead, follow a more realistic approach to eating by focusing on eating real food to fuel your body throughout the day.

Nutrition Myths

This article was originally written for MYPROTEIN.

In today’s crowded fitness space, it’s hard to differentiate fact from fiction.

Over the years, certain nutrition methods have become widely accepted as the “right way” without any direct reasoning or proof. Whether it’s something you read in some article on some website one time, or something you overheard in the gym locker room, you may have unknowingly adopted many of these false practices. Let me clear things up by debunking 4 of the most common myths in the nutrition world, and what you should be doing instead.

1. The Window of Gainz

The Myth: After a workout, you have a 30-minute “anabolic window” to drink a protein shake for recovery or your muscles won’t grow and repair as effectively.

The Truth: There is no magic time frame post-workout in which you must have protein to preserve muscle growth. Overall nutrient intake throughout the day is much more important than the timing of said nutrients. In fact, a study conducted by the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University found that protein synthesis is elevated for an entire 24-hour period after training. So you have all day to fuel your body, not just a 30-minute window.

The Takeaway: There’s no need to rush home the second you finish your last set to chug a protein shake. As long as you’re getting an adequate amount of quality protein throughout the day, you’re fine.

2. Small, Frequent Meals

The Myth: Eating 5-6 small meals per day increases your metabolism and burns more calories.

The Truth: Calories are calories. Similar to the previous point, it isn’t about frequency or timing, it’s about overall daily caloric intake. Smaller meals eaten more often throughout the day have been proven to have negligible effects on weight loss. So whether you have five 400-calorie meals or two 1,000-calorie meals, your body treats them the same.

The Takeaway: Do what works for you. Some people like the convenience of only three larger meals per day. Others like the variety of five smaller meals. Both can be effective. In the end, what you eat (and how much of it) matters much more than how often.

3. Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day

The Myth: Eating breakfast jump-starts your metabolism (helping you lose more weight) and prevents you from overeating later in the day.

The Truth: Many studies have been performed recently to disprove the popular misconception that eating breakfast is essential to weight loss. In fact, breakfast could actually be detrimental to your progress. A lot of popular breakfast foods (cereal, bagels, toast, doughnuts, kolaches, pastries) are loaded with sugar and provide little to no nutritional benefit. Eating breakfast also creates a larger eating window (the number of hours in the day you’re eating food) which could actually cause overeating and the storage of excess fat.

The Takeaway: If you’re not hungry in the morning, then don’t eat. You could benefit considerably by fasting in the morning. If you do enjoy breakfast, make sure you’re eating some quality protein and fat to keep you satisfied for a longer period of time. Avoid the high-carb, sugary treats that will have you reaching for food in another couple hours.

4. Eating at Night Makes You Fat

The Myth: If you eat too close to your bedtime, your body will store the calories as fat and cause you to gain weight.

The Truth: Calories can’t tell time. They don’t know the difference between 5 PM or 10 PM. Your body breaks them down the same no matter what time they’re consumed. Once again, your overall caloric intake vs. caloric expenditure during the entire day determines whether or not you’ll lose weight. Eating at night is commonly associated with weight gain because it’s often when people tend to binge eat (or drink). It’s when you’re out at the bars, or at a movie, or on a dinner date. But as long as you maintain healthy eating habits, the timing of the meal doesn’t matter.

The Takeaway: If you’re hungry at night, eat. But don’t overeat. Stick to your typical portions and eat real, quality food.

Take Home Message

For many years, I believed all of these myths.

I took protein powder to the gym with me so I could down a shake as soon as I finished lifting. I carried Tupperware around and ate six times a day, fearing that any less would halt my progress. I had breakfast the second I woke up every morning, and I was scared to eat big meals at night.

I was hesitant to try anything different because for the better part of the past 10 years I had been under the spell of “bro science”. But now I see the light. After doing my research and experimenting on myself with Anabolic Fasting aka “The Unicorn Diet”, I’ve finally come to terms that all of these popular beliefs are indeed myths.

If you get anything from the article, I hope it’s that there’s no one-size fits all solution for nutrition. In the end, you have to find a routine that works for you. Find something that’s sustainable and enjoyable. If you can’t stick to it, then you won’t be successful. If you like having a shake post-workout or a big breakfast every morning, that’s ok. Ultimately, your success is not dependent on any one choice. It’s the sum of the parts.

One Bad Meal Won't Break You

Shipley's Donuts

One bad meal won’t break you, just like one good meal won’t make you.

Ditch the “all or nothing” mentality.

The mentality that if you have one donut at the office on Tuesday morning you’ll say, “Welp, I messed up. Guess I’ll enjoy the rest of this week and start again next Monday.”

Or, “I already ate bad this morning, I’ll just make this my cheat day and get back to it tomorrow.”

No! Nutrition, and any other aspects of fitness, are NOT all or nothing. Conditions will never be perfect.

You’ll get invited to that midweek birthday dinner. You’ll run out of your prepped meals on a Wednesday. You’ll have a few too many Oreos when you get that late night craving.

The key is to not let those little slip ups set you down a long, recurring path to mediocrity. Instead, build strong nutritional habits so when those slip ups inevitably happen, you can jump right back into your routine and keep making progress.

Here are a few habits that help me avoid the “all or nothing” mentality:

Track Your Intake

Set calorie and macro targets and use MyFitnessPal to track your food. You’ll realize that one donut will not ruin the entire day. You also may realize that some of the “healthy” food you’ve been eating isn’t so great after all (or you’re just eating too much of it).

Meal Prep

You can get by without doing your own cooking, but when you have to go out to eat for every meal, temptation is at every corner. Prepping your meals ensures that you’re conveniently stocked up on healthy choices.

Plan Ahead

If you know you’re going out for drinks and dinner that night, eat a bit lighter during the day. If you’ve got a barbecue planned for the weekend, stay tight to your diet throughout the week so you can enjoy yourself like a normal person. If you’re going out of town, look for some spots nearby where you can grab a healthy meal.

Make Food That You Look Forward to Eating

It’s 2018, and people still believe the only way to eat healthy is to have tilapia and broccoli 6 times a day. What a shame.

Let me let you in on a little secret- you CAN enjoy what you eat and get results. Finding meals that you actually look forward to is one of the most important parts of good nutrition.

Just about anybody can starve themselves for a few days and lose weight.

Most people can jump on the latest fad diet for a couple weeks and shed some pounds.

A few can choke down their coach’s designated meal plan (that never changes and revolves around the same exact foods every single day) for a few months and get in great shape.

But then what?

Once the first sign of adversity hits, people resort right back to their bad habits, ultimately gaining back all of the weight they lost (and then some).

So how do you make sure that doesn’t happen to you? EAT FOOD THAT YOU LIKE.

Creating meals that you look forward to eating will not only make you more excited about your diet, it will improve your adherence to it. Improved adherence leads to better results, and better results leads to long-term success. Sustainability is always the end goal.

You don’t have to be a 5-star chef to whip up some decent meals, either. Here’s the latest thing that my wife has been hooked on:

Healthy Asian Rice Bowl

  • 6 oz. shrimp
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • Asparagus
  • Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (best soy sauce substitute)

Rant on Macros

This is an omelet I made earlier. Here's what's in it:

  • 4 whole eggs
  • Spinach
  • Bell peppers
  • Diced onions
  • 2 Aidells chicken sausages
  • All cooked in organic virgin coconut oil

It was good. Really good. And here are the macros:

  • Protein: No idea
  • Fat: A decent amount
  • Carbs: Not much

My point? Yes, counting macros can be a valuable process. Especially if you're starting an unfamiliar nutrition plan or if you're a total beginner. But is it the end all be all? Hell no.

I see way too many people freaking out about a few extra grams of carbs or slightly missing their protein requirement. Obsessing over these numbers is the opposite of healthy. Unless I'm in serious prep for a competition or something similar, you won't catch me dead weighing my food, counting my calories, or tracking my macros. For the average person, it's just not necessary.

So what should you do instead?

  • Eat Real Food
    • This is by far the most important thing that I live by. It's the first thing I tell my clients. Your diet should be made up of meat, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and earth-grown starches. Anything that lived on, or came from, the ground is real.
  • Listen To Your Body
    • When you're hungry, eat. When you're not, don't. Pay attention to how you feel when you eat certain foods. Some things may make you feel energized, others may make you feel sluggish. Take note and adjust accordingly.
  • Be Practical
    • Can a high fat diet be healthy? Definitely. Is eating an entire stick of grass-fed butter in one sitting a good idea? Definitely not. Can a high carb meal help fuel a good workout? Yep. Is eating a big bowl of fettucine alfredo 15 minutes before a workout smart? Contrary to what nutritionists in the '80s believed, nope. Nutrition, at it's core, isn't that complicated. Eat more good stuff, eat less bad stuff. You know what the difference is.

3 Tips to Enjoy Your Thanksgiving Feast Guilt-Free

Thanksgiving is all about expressing gratitude and appreciation for those who matter most.

It's also about eating stuffing, green bean casserole, and mashed potatoes to the point where you literally cannot physically move (because let's be real- turkey gets all the love, but the side dishes are the real MVPs).

If you're stressing about gaining weight over the holiday season because of all the parties and potlucks, then I've got good news for you. You CAN have your cake (or pumpkin pie) and eat it too. Here are 3 tips on how to make it through the holidays without going completely off the rails.

 

1. Train Everyday

This is a given. If you've read any of my previous blogs, you know that I'm a firm believer in working out in some form or fashion every single day. Most gyms are closed on Thanksgiving and other major holidays, so don't worry about sticking to your normal training regimen, but do at least some type of activity. A quick 20-30 minute bodyweight workout first thing in the morning will keep you on track. Even a long walk around the block with your family is better than nothing. Just move!

 

2. Fast Until You Feast

If you're anything like me, you're about knock down an entire day's worth of calories in a matter of hours- prepare accordingly. Conserve those calories by fasting until Thanksgiving dinner. That's right, don't eat anything. If you're starving, go ahead and have a little snack, but most people have an earlier meal so it shouldn't be much of an issue.

 

3. Enjoy Yourself...For A Day

Eat and drink whatever you want for Thanksgiving dinner. Go nuts. This is a special time with special people and special food- enjoy it. But after Thursday, dial it back in immediately. That's the key. Don't linger on macaroni and potatoes and pies for the rest of the week. Turkey and veggies are fine, but let your family and friends take the rest of the leftovers.

That's all I've got!

I hope you all have a very safe and happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

(And Hook 'Em)

 

How Alcohol Impacts Fitness Progress

As you read this, you may think to yourself, “Damn, it feels like he’s talking directly to me.”

That’s probably because I am.

Before I dive in, I’d just like to say that what I’m going to be talking about here is not alcoholism. That subject is well beyond my expertise, and I have no authority to speak on it.

What I’m going to be talking about is social drinking. The kind of drinking that I, and most of my peers, engage in.

Yes, I drink too. Shocker.

I’m not trying to sit up on my high horse and urge you not to drink. That’s not my place, and frankly, it’s not my intent. At the risk of sounding too preachy, my hope with this blog is to give you the reality check that you probably need.

In actuality, this article isn’t even really about drinking. It’s about self-awareness.

 

Maybe you can go out with friends and have a few beers without getting totally housed. Maybe you can go to a show or a football game and enjoy yourself and still wake up the next morning at a reasonable time without feeling like you got hit by a bus.

But maybe you can’t.

If you’re happy with your current lifestyle and you’re able to progress in your career and relationships and fitness goals while getting occasionally slammed, then by all means keep doing your thing. But if you’ve been trying to lose weight for quite some time and you keep telling yourself that you’re serious about your health...yet you get wasted every Friday and Saturday night and stumble your way to the taco truck at 2 AM, wake up the next day at noon, and sit on your ass doing nothing the rest of the weekend...then I’m talking to you.

 

First, let’s get all the obvious stuff out of the way.

Alcohol has calories. Lots of them. And not the good kind. They’re empty calories. Alcohol provides no nutritional value.

A 12-ounce beer has about 150 calories. A 5-ounce glass of wine has about 125 calories. A 1.5-ounce shot of liquor has about 100 calories. Think back to last weekend and add that up.

For reference, the best way to lose weight in a healthy manner is to operate at a minor caloric deficit for an extended period of time while consistently working out (burning more calories than consuming). A minor caloric deficit is approximately 150-200 calories less per day than your typical diet, assuming that you’re consuming sufficient calories already (which is another subject).

So if you keep telling yourself that the beer or two you drink with dinner every night is no big deal…

is-alcohol-wreaking-havoc-on-your-physique-1.jpg

Alcohol also:

  • Causes dehydration

  • Disrupts sleep patterns

  • Impairs protein synthesis

  • Increases cortisol levels

  • Inhibits absorption of essential nutrients such as amino acids and B vitamins

 

That’s all bad stuff, but the real issue with alcohol is the subsequent decision making.

Let me paint a picture for you:

It’s Friday, and you’ve busted your ass all week in the gym and stuck to your diet 100%. You hit every set, every rep, and even managed to say no to those donuts that someone brought to the office this morning.

You’re feeling great. You’ve got momentum on your side, and you’re finally starting to feel like you’re making solid progress. All is right in the world!

But then your boy texts you and invites you to go out tonight. It sounds like a good time, so you’re in. No biggie right? You’ve got to go home and get ready after work, so you decide to skip the gym. After all, you’ve worked out the past four days straight. You’ve earned a day off, right?

Later that night, you get to the bar and have a few drinks. And then a few more. And then a few more. You’re feeling good, but then the hunger sets in. Suddenly, the only thing that will keep you satisfied is a big ass slice of pizza. Or three. You devour that cheesy goodness like the fat kid who ate all the cake in Matilda.

Afterward, you get an Uber back home (because you’re a responsible adult) and pass out on the couch. Successful night.

The next day, you wake up around noon feeling like crap. From moment you sit up and put your feet on the floor, you know there’s absolutely no way you’re making it to the gym. In fact, there’s only one thing that can cure this piercing headache- Whataburger.

After a hearty meal and an afternoon power nap, you meet up with your friends for dinner (and a few drinks obvs.) One drink leads to two, two to three...which leads to you back at the same bar from the night before.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Next thing you know, it’s Sunday night and you’re still recovering from the weekend's shenanigans. You realize you haven’t done anything productive since Friday afternoon. You haven’t worked out since Thursday. The only thing you’ve eaten that even resembles a vegetable is the lettuce from the 6 tacos you knocked down Saturday night. Essentially, you lost half of your week.

 

I know this cycle all too well because I was trapped in it for years (sorry mom). In college, I worked my ass off for 4 days, only to throw it all away the next 3. And just like you were once able to eat McDonald’s before every football game in high school and feel great on the field (still don’t understand how we did that), you can get away with doing this stuff for a while. But eventually it catches up to you.

If you want to take your health seriously and truly get in shape, you have to recognize that 4 days out of the week isn’t going to cut it. This is truly a lifestyle.

I’m not trying to be the No Fun Police, and I’m certainly not telling you to get sober, but I am telling you to get real. Be honest with yourself. If you’re constantly struggling with weight loss or muscle building or just health in general, the first place to look is your daily and weekly habits. If alcohol is a factor, then address it.

 

I didn’t really understand how detrimental drinking can be until I started training others. Too often, I had people grinding in the gym and eating clean all week only to find out that they fell off the wagon over the weekend. To further investigate this issue, I ran a little experiment of my own.

I had all of my clients weigh in two times per week- once on Monday and once on Thursday.

I did this (and still do) so that they can clearly see how their weekly habits influence their progress. Time and time again, I’ve seen people drop 2, 3, 4, 5 pounds from Monday to Thursday. Over the weekend however, they often remain stagnant or even gain a few pounds back. That ultimately leads to a net loss for the week which is great, but I want to bring attention to the fact that sticking to the program only half of the week gets you only half of the results.

 

Like I said, fitness is a lifestyle. Your personal health should be priority number one because it ultimately determines your effectiveness in all other aspects of life. It determines your productivity at work and even the way you treat your family. You have to put yourself first.

Again, I’m not telling you going out and having a few drinks with friends is the end of the world. And if you can manage your alcohol properly, you can absolutely, 100%, certainly still make great progress with your fitness goals. I’m just telling you to be self-aware.

 

Ok, enough preaching. Here are a few tips to help you manage your drinking from a dude who is obsessed with fitness but also enjoys a few brews with his boys from time-to-time:

 

1. LIMIT ALCOHOL TO THE WEEKENDS

I treat my alcohol exactly like my cheat meals- save it for the weekend. Kill that drink you’re having with dinner and the mid-week happy hours. Stay dialed in throughout the week when you have the most control of your schedule.

 

2. DON’T KEEP ALCOHOL IN THE HOUSE

Again, I treat this just like my cheat meals- out of sight, out of mind. It’s so much easier to avoid temptation when it’s not staring you in the face every time you open the fridge. By making it more inconvenient to drink, you’ll be less inclined to do so.

 

3. ENCOURAGE FRIENDS AND FAMILY TO DO NON-DRINKING ACTIVITIES

There’s more to life than bars and clubs. Get outside. Change up the routine. Break patterns.

 

Thank you guys for bearing with me. This is an issue that I’ve noticed affects a lot of people, and I hope you’re able to take something from it. Now go get out there and take back your weekends!

Meal Prep 101

“Willpower becomes a habit by choosing a certain behavior ahead of time, and then following that routine when an inflection point arrives.”- Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit

Meal prepping is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. It will save you time. It will save you money. And it will save you pounds on the scale.

The concept of cooking a week's worth of meals in advance is frightening to many people, but I assure you it’s so much easier than it’s perceived to be. Here’s a crash course in Meal Prep 101.

 

Keep It Simple

Ditch the Recipe Book

Too often, I hear stories of people trying to follow complex recipes and prepare a wide variety of dishes only to fail miserably when they realize how high they’ve set the bar.

Scrap the “I need 16 herbs and spices to make this chicken” mentality. 90% of the time, you can make food taste great with nothing but a little salt and pepper or a good seasoning blend (I’ll touch on that later). When it comes to meal prep, it’s all about sticking to the basics.

The Basics- Real Food

EAT REAL FOOD.

Generally speaking, your diet should be made up of lean protein (poultry, beef, seafood), vegetables & fruits (any and all), clean starches (potatoes, oats, whole grains), and healthy fats (nuts, avocados, olive oil, coconut oil). That’s it. Nothing processed or artificial.

If I could only give one piece of nutrition advice for the rest of my life, this would be it.

Eliminating the man-made garbage from your diet can have drastic effects on the way you look and feel. All of these foods can be easily prepared using basic household appliances (microwave, oven, stove).

Cook What You Know and Use What You Have

I’m all for adding variety to your diet, particularly if you enjoy cooking, but meal prep is about simplicity. Save the exotic dishes for special occasions and one-off dinners.

When you’re cooking for the week, you want to focus on foods that you can prepare easily, efficiently, and in bulk. Use the appliances that you have. You don’t need a fancy new grill or slow-cooker to prepare great meals. In fact, everything that I cook can be made on the stove.

 

Plan Ahead and Schedule Time

Determine Your Ideal Week

Before you begin prepping your food, or even shopping for it, plan your ideal week.

How many meals per day will you need? What will you eat for each of those meals? How much food do you need to buy to support that plan?

Portions are tough to judge, especially for a beginner. My advice is to take note of how you feel after each meal, and make adjustments as necessary. Are you too full? Still hungry? It takes some practice, but eventually you’ll get to the point where you know exactly how much food is right for you.

Shop Smart

I previously wrote a blog about healthy grocery shopping, so I’ll just give you a quick rundown here.

Make a list and stick to it. Only buy the items you need to prepare the meals for your ideal week.

Buy in bulk. There’s nothing worse than running out of food mid-week, forcing you to either go out to eat or make a second trip to the store. If you get too much, you can always freeze it.

Schedule Time to Cook

I’ll admit that I’m guilty of buying a fridge full of food from the store, only to let it sit there for days because I didn’t set aside time to actually cook it.

From my experience, you need to schedule a specific time every week to do your meal prep. Sundays are the obvious choice. If you cook efficiently, a week's worth of meals could take you less than an hour to prepare.

Multi-tasking is a major key to meal prep. For example, while my 10-12 chicken breasts are baking in the oven, I cook my 4-5 pounds of ground turkey on the stove. In 30 minutes, all my food is ready to go.

Involve your family and friends, too. If you have plans to watch football all day, throw your bag of chicken on the grill while you enjoy the game. If you truly want to succeed with your diet, you have to set aside time to prepare your food.

 

Tools of the Trade

Meal Prep Containers

When it comes to meal prep, I’m a huge advocate of taking a little extra time on the front-end of the process to make things simpler on the back-end. That means separating your meals into individual containers as soon as you finishing cooking them.

You could just throw everything in a large tupperware and divide your portions out each day, but sure enough you’ll be running late one morning and convince yourself that the extra effort isn’t worth your time.

I get my containers from Costco, but these from Amazon will work great, too.

Food Scale

A food scale is a great tool for cooks of any skill level.

Like I mentioned earlier, it’s tough to judge portion sizes simply by eyeballing it. A food scale will give you exact measurements and will make tracking your macros a breeze (if you’re into that sorta thing).

I recommend this one.

Frozen Steamable Veggies

I’m all about simplicity, and bags of frozen steamable veggies are about as simple as it gets.

Just pop them in the microwave for 5 minutes and you’ve got 4-5 servings of high-quality vegetables. In fact, frozen veggies are often more nutrient-dense than fresh because they’re flash-frozen at peak ripeness.

Mixed veggies, broccoli, green beans, and peas are all great options.

Mrs. Dash Seasonings

I put Mrs. Dash on everything; and I mean everything. To be honest, I don’t even use other spices or seasonings.

There are a ton of flavors, and all options are salt-free and MSG-free. I cook chicken almost every week, but it never gets old with this stuff.

My personal favorites are Southwest Chipotle, Fiesta Lime, and Garlic & Herb.

Healthy Grocery Shopping

It’s often said that abs are made in the kitchen. Well, what’s made in the kitchen is bought from the grocery store. Shopping for healthy food can be overwhelming, especially if you’re new to it. As someone who is on a first-name basis at H-E-B, I think I’m qualified to give you some advice on how to shop smarter. Follow these tips and I guarantee your body (and bank account) will thank you.

 

Be Prepared

Before you even get to the grocery store, make a list of all the items you need. This sounds trivial, but it will make your trip so much easier.

Plan your meals for the week. Take inventory of your fridge and pantry. If there’s a specific recipe you want to try, look up all the ingredients. As you get more accustomed to preparing your own meals, note the quantities of food you need to make it through a week. This will prevent you from buying too much and throwing it away or buying too little and having to make a second trip.

So often, people show up to the grocery store and mindlessly wander through the aisles, impulsively picking out items that look good at the time or look “healthy.” This leads to a lot of wasted food and money. Also, nothing makes you feel more defeated than coming home excited to cook a new meal, only to realize you forgot the one key ingredient.

Making a grocery list is as simple as writing a note on your phone. Stick to the list and save yourself the headaches.

 

Shop the Perimeter of the Store

Lots of dietitians/nutritionists/coaches have differing views on the specifics of a healthy diet, but they typically always agree on one thing: EAT REAL FOOD.

No matter what nutrition plan you follow, it should be primarily comprised of foods that are whole, unprocessed, and unrefined. That includes fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood, poultry, nuts, and seeds. Coincidentally, almost all of these products are found on the perimeter of the grocery store.

Avoid the inner aisles which are stocked with artificial, ultra-processed junk. There are some exceptions, such as the aforementioned nuts and seeds, but for the most part, you’re much better off sticking to the edges of the store.

Start with the produce section and load up on veggies. You and I both know you’re not eating enough of them. Next, fill your basket with high-quality protein such as chicken, turkey, lean beef, and eggs. At this point, your shopping list should be nearly complete. Throw in a few essentials (PEANUT BUTTER) and you should be good to go.

Don’t tempt yourself by perusing the rest of the store. Head straight to the checkout line and get out of there.

 

Read the Label

As Biggie once said, “Mo ingredients, mo problems.” Or something like that.

As a general rule of thumb, the fewer the ingredients the better.

A lot of you might be shocked to find that some of the foods you considered healthy are actually loaded with chemicals, preservatives, and artificial sweeteners. Frequent offenders include cereal, lunch meats, sports drinks, and frozen dinners. This leads me to my next point: Don’t buy into buzzwords.

When you see “fat-free” or “reduced sugar” or “low calorie” on a food label it often leads you to believe it’s better for you. IT'S NOT.

There are three ingredients that companies use to make food taste good: salt, sugar, and fat. When you take one of those out, it’s often replaced by the others. Don’t buy into the hype. Items such as peanut butter, yogurt, and salad dressing are much healthier in their full-fat form. Get in the habit of checking ingredients before you automatically assume a food is healthy.

 

Don’t Buy Cheat Foods

I may get some backlash on this one, but hear me out. I eat healthy most of the time. Like, 90% of the time. But occasionally I love to indulge in a nice cheat meal. YOLO, right?

However, I never buy unhealthy food from the store when shopping for the week. No ice cream, no cookies, no chips, and no alcohol. By doing so, I’d only be setting myself up for failure. My philosophy is out of sight, out of mind.

It’s much easier to avoid temptation for 30 minutes at the store than 6 days at home. If you have a bag of chips in the pantry at all times, you’re way more likely to snack on that than a handful of almonds.

I much prefer to plan my cheat meals. For example, if I know I’m going to a barbecue on Saturday, I’ll stick to my routine throughout the week so I can enjoy a few beers and some good food while I’m there.

For the average person, one or two cheat meals a week isn’t going to derail your progress. Notice I said meals not days. A couple Oreo's every day might seem innocent enough, but compounded over time it creates a real problem. Plus, if you’re anything like me you’re probably going to knock down an entire sleeve in one sitting.

By avoiding cheat foods at the grocery store, you’ll develop much healthier and sustainable eating habits at home and give yourself the opportunity to indulge if an occasion arises.

 

Quick Tips

Here are some tips that will help you shop smarter, from my grocery list to yours.

Pay for Convenience

  • Frozen steamable veggies are easy to pop in the microwave if you don’t have time to cook a bunch of fresh ones.
  • Spray olive oil is easier than bottled.
  • Rather than lugging around whole melons, cantaloupe, pineapples, etc. just buy the cut-up versions.

Stock Up on Canned Meat

  • Canned tuna, salmon, chicken, or turkey make for an easy meal in a pinch.
  • Always opt for in water vs. in oil and keep an eye on the sodium.

Nuts in Bulk

  • Get a huge bag of mixed nuts and put a handful in a plastic bag for a quick snack.
  • Always go for the option with no salt (no fruit or M&M’s either, sorry).

Put Spinach in Everything

  • Like I said before, you’re not getting enough veggies. Throw spinach in the blender with a protein shake (can’t even taste it) or sauté it and pair with any meal.

Eat Whole Eggs

  • Egg whites have their place, but the yolks in whole eggs are a great source of essential vitamins and minerals and healthy saturated fat.

Loins and Rounds

  • When buying steak, opt for loins and rounds which have a higher protein-to-fat ratio than t-bone, rib-eye, or porterhouse.

Plain Greek Yogurt

  • Fruit-flavored yogurts are often loaded with added sugars. Opt for plain and add your own fresh fruit.

Organic Peanut Butter

  • The real stuff makes JIF taste like plastic.
  • Find a no mixing, no stirring variety to avoid a thick layer of oil on top.

Variety

  • It’s important to have some go-to meals and staples of your diet, but switch it up from time to time.
  • Ex: Lean ground beef instead of ground turkey, fish instead of chicken, etc.
  • Keep it interesting!