Category Archives: dietary

Liquid Experiment

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This is by no means a program, a diet, a plan or anything that has any long term sustainability.

I live a busy life. Up before 6AM, not always time for breakfast, just coffee, and when I make food, it’s usually a couple of eggs. If I am not being an exclusive chauffeur for the kids to be taken to school or daycare, or after-school activities, or taking them to the park, I also usually focus on the groceries and home cooking. My wife has an incredibly busy schedule too. We live in Los Angeles, with cost of living rivaling Manhattan, middle-Class exterminator.

I still put in the minimum effective dose of training to stay in shape, be mobile, conditioned, capable. My knowledge of my industry precedes my abilities, not because I don’t have them nor cultivate them. I also have a condition in my cervical spine that needs attention and treatment.

I eat well, quality foods and balanced, without worries of vanity or aesthetic, rather functional balance. I didn’t win a genetic lottery and I am fine with that.

This experiment was purely to see how I could sustain a 5-day liquid intake of 4-5 32g/serving of protein shakes per day. 2 scoops, 16oz of water, with the occasional addition of MCT or coconut oil, or sub those with either almond or peanut butter (organic raw crunchy unsalted) and a tablespoon of ground flax seed. The only solids came from either a crunchy salad, celery, or broccoli (literally 3 servings, one of each of those, in the entire week).

I was only hungry if I went 4-5 hours without a shake. Energy levels never dropped; if anything, performance was better, more focused and driven with 4 workouts plus a few running/jogging/peed walking sessions on top. Urine was clear or nearly clear the entire time.

Pictures from left to right respectively show: Day 1 side shot, Day 6 side shot, Day 1 front shot Day 6 front shot and the last 2 are taken on Day 7, the morning after having had pizza, beer, burger and fries, as well as a regular soda the day before, and “road trip” snacks.

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The Only Diet You Should Follow: The Toddler Diet

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Quick marketing question: did this title grab your attention? A little controversial, a little absolutist, a little strongly opinionated and even arrogant. Tools for good blogging apparently…

Seriously, now. We’re about to be bombarded by fitness training specials, such as my “lock in your current rate right now before 2012”, or whatever gyms and TV ads will have, dealing with weight loss and resolutions and blah blah blah… But you can ignore it all, and as long as you realize the advertisers are targeting your reptilian, emotional brain, and are able to keep cool about it, you will realize that the only diet you should follow is one that works. I’ll reveal what that one is after a quick recap of diet FAQ’s.

ALL DIETS WORK
Yes, all diets work. Until they fail. They fail because you quit them, because you are on a diet, not following a lifestyle of healthy eating. Good habits last. Short term goals are to get you to see that stuff works, but it means you have to keep doing it.
I like the Warrior Diet for the busy professional who has no time to sit down during the day.
I like the Paleo diet because it biologically is closest to what our body needs.
I like the TNT diet because it takes Paleo and removes some of the hard core stuff I hate, like organs designed to filter junk in your system.
I have been a bit more hardcore this season because of needing to get ready for a photo shoot, so my naturally lean and low fat % body needed to get “cover lean”. During the holiday season. Because I’ve done it before, I didn’t have trouble sticking with it while others were feasting on seasonal calorie-packing meals. What made it easier is that it made me feel instantly better. No wheat, no starch, no gluten, no pastas, rice, cookies, breads = no bloat, no gas, no gut. I still feel great and recommend it. I pretty much eat that way year-round, but allow myself more forbidden indulgences when I try to pack on some extra muscle, and carbs are protein-sparing and allow me to grow thicker muscles.

THE TODDLER DIET
Looking at the little guy that runs around in my house, climbing over everything, holding on to my pull-up bar, displacing kettlebells of his own body weight, sprinting from A to Z at the park and at home, rolling around, contorting at various angles, I see what people normally see on Nat Geo watching lion cubs play fight. My toddler son is developing all kinds of motor skills, natural lifting instincts (I show him an Indian Club, he tries to swing it, a weighted bar, he tries to lift it, a pull-up bar, he tries to hang and even pull himself up). He packs an incredible amount of energy into everything he does.

How does he eat? His patterns seems to be: milk a few times a day. Light breakfast of eggs, occasionally a wheat-free gluten-free waffle. Snack: veggie-fruit combo pouch. Lunch is where he tends to eat a big amount of solid protein, with his nutrient dense rich foods like sweet potatoes. Dinner is always, always (his choice, really!) broccoli, green beans, sweet peas in big quantities. Loves fennel, loves everything home cooked and richness of flavors (not afraid of spices).

So: load up on protein early on, same with natural non-processed carbs (fruits and veggies) during the day to promote your activities and eat less at dinner (the opposite of the warrior diet), focusing mostly on veggies, and maybe a light protein shake before bed and you’re set! Energized like a toddler, and those of you who have one, or remember what it’s like to care for one, you know their energy levels can kick your ass!

My Weight Loss Journey

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Those of you who know me personally may wonder WTF is the talking about? I’m not that thick to begin with.

Well, first off, I was bulking up on purpose in the beginning of the year. Put on about 14lb from my homeostatic 180lb to 194lb in less than 2 months while only adding on 4lb of fat in the process. Not, it wasn’t water weight,m because I was eating a bunch of carbs and I was eating and lifting to grow! I had started the process on January 10, 2011.
March 10, 2011, I got injured at work by doing something stupid (there are no accidents, only bad judgment, for this kind of stuff), i.e. lifted 2 125lb dumbbells that were wedged between the rack and the mirror at Gold’s Gym, where I no longer work, because some douchebag decided to not dispose of his weights properly. Pulled a muscle around T1, which then escalated to tension in the cervical spine.

SO, WHY THE NEED TO LOSE WEIGHT?
First off, not being able to lift heavy for a while, my caloric burn/resting metabolic rate would drop tremendously and I would only pack fat eating the way I was. Second, I am a trainer, I can’t look like shit. I don’t have to look amazing so long as I can perform and stay lean. Third, I started working for an exercise video project and I needed to do something safe, for myself but mostly the users, with moves I can sign off on proudly without delivering “yet another weight loss video”. For that, I’d need to lose weight myself (camera adds weight) and since it is getting more difficult (age) to lose fat, I needed something that I know would work for many people. I wanted to look shredded, like I never had before.

THE PROCESS
I decided to of course not take the journey alone and combine my knowledge and have it checked by another trainer friend of mine who specializes more in nutrition now, Jay Chavez. I’ll have him post a guest blog and you can contact him for your food needs. Good man.
So, the process was to water load, which in my case was to drink 1.5 gallons of water per day, to flush it out of my system. Concurrently, Jay suggested I take Bone Up, by Jarrows, to avoid depleting too much of my minerals,like calcium, potassium and magnesium. I also was taking green tea extract (decaf), garlic extract, alpha lipoic acid (antioxidant helping in recovery) and policosanol before bed. And, since at that point I’d recovered from my injury, I started to push a little harder doing the workouts I designed for others, I also was working on a personal goal of mine by following Kenneth Jay’s Perfecting The Press routine, which revolves solely around the kettlebell military press. With the hard work and all, baby cause sleep deprivation, workout design and testing, plus work, I was feeling pretty beat up. So, to help, I found an herbal product that allegedly promotes HGH production, called Vital HGH. Placebo? Dunno, but I feel like it helped me recover better and continue to push.

THE FINAL TOUCH
2 days prior to filming, I had to stop all liquid intake (besides just enough to take my supplements and what lies naturally in veggies) to start pulling water away from the skin and get that shrink-wrapped look. I took a water pill, OTC, called H20 Lean, by MRM. Didn’t feel like it was doing the job, so Jay suggested I take a hot bath and keep warm clothes on to keep the sweating process active, to evacuate even more water through the pores. I did that and did an amazing stretching session that also promoted my sweating process. Overnight, I lost an extra 5lb!

THE NUMBERS
I started March 10, 2011 at about 193-194lb. May 1, 185-187lb. On June 2, I was around 182lb. June 4, 180lb, June 5, 175lb! I really count my May 1 date, as it was closest to my homeostatic weight (the weight gained before wasn’t going to last as I hadn’t carried it on my body long enough).

THE DIET
Since I eat TNT/Paleo “light”/Wildfitness style anyway, not much changed other than my timing. I wasn’t eating for growth anymore. Carbs close to nothing, but if I needed any for fuel and to spare my muscles from breaking down too much, I’d eat low glycemic carbs, at least 2-3 hours pre-workout, nothing for at least an hour post, and never at night. The rest was lean protein, fresh organic veggies (little to no fruit) and water. Someone eating more carbs to begin with may get faster results, but will take more time to psychologically adjust, whereas for me, it was no big deal.

2 WEEKS LATER
Went back to my 183lb range, +/- 3lb. Eating with more flexibility and “entitlement” (wine, beer, ice cream on occasion, as well as bread here and there a couple of times per week), water consumption back to normal. Performance in training still good (progressing as a matter of fact) and no noticeable loss of leanness, rather slight mass gain. It’s as if my body adapted and is still burning fat like crazy! It’s not that warm for June, and I feel like it’s way warmer than it is! Resting metabolic rate through the roof!

Time to eat!

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Long time readers and clients may already know this, but for those of you who recently joined, I thought this blog entry would be a good, simple reminder that you can still enjoy tasty treats while observing good nutrition. I am encouraging the “tasty” part because too often, people see nutrition as some kid of bland hellhole when in fact, some of the most flavorful meals I’ve had were the healthiest.

IT’S ALL IN THE TIMING
Simply put, eat what you want, and if it happens to be a carbohydrate, consume it around physical activity, i.e. you want a piece of chocolate or a cookie, have it. You deserve a sweet treat once in a while, enjoy it as your reward after a nice, but intense workout, be in weight training, yoga, a martial arts session, a tennis match or some interval running. Any kind of interval workout, which all of the aforementioned types qualify, makes you burn carbohydrates. All other times, you are burning fat. An endurance workout on the treadmill, or a walk will not burn enough calories and elevate the heart rate to levels of intensity that will solicit your body to tap into your carb tank.
Hence the misunderstanding of the “Fat Burning Zone” on a treadmill.

So, you may consume carbs pre- and/or post- training, and stick to protein, natural fat and fiber all other times.

THE MYTH OF THE FAT BURNING ZONE
Dated beliefs and misinterpreted, skewed data will have you believe that there is a Fat Burning Zone, which falls on a lower elevation of the heart rate. On a treadmill for instance, the claim is that you will BURN MORE FAT at low intensity, and that when you run like a mad person at a full 12% incline and 10mph, you’d be burning LESS fat. While that is true, it is not quite how it works, because while the higher intensity of an uphill fast run burns carbs rather than fat, it also burns a heck of a lot more calories than a leisurely walk in the Fat Burning Zone. The FBZ comes from the fact that at rest, we burn fat. As I frequently tell about, overweight people may ask “if I am burning fat while at rest, why am I still fat?” Answer: because you consume too many carbs, which you STORE in your FAT CELLS (picture them as pockets). Thus, our heart rate is lowest at rest, when we burn most fat, and therefore, a lower intensity workout will burn more fat.

The laws of thermodynamics also dictate that thermogenesis occurs by burning more calories than you take in to lose weight. If a pound of fat equals 3500 calories, then a high intensity interval hill run with a heart rate at 85% of your maximum heart rate will get you closer to your weight loss goal than a low intensity walk of the same duration, because the latter will burn way, way less calories.

SO, WHAT CAN I EAT?
Anytime:
– Protein (meat, fish, eggs, protein shakes made with water and low carb/sugar content).
– Fiber (veggies, yet they are considered carbs too, no starch in them).
-Natural fat sources (nuts, olives, cheeses, avocados…)

Some of the time (around workouts or, the night before in preparation of a sustained, high intensity caloric burn like a marathon ):
-Carbohydrates (natural sugar from fruits, starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, dairy -which also contains fat and protein).

There is enough information out there for you to find out on your own what foods fall into what category. Although, I recently interviewed a new weight loss client who told me she ate very well, “a ton of protein every day” and when I asked her to name me the types of protein she ate, she mentioned lots of bread, lots of white rice and lots of bananas… True story. If you don’t see the problem, feel free to email me for a complimentary phone consultation for us to design a nutritional program for you 🙂

(Part 1 of this 2 part post can be found here).

I need to be Zen…

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It happened again today. It’s not like I shouldn’t expect it, and you’d think I’d learn after all this time. I even thought that after a few hours, I’d cool down a bit and let bygones be bygones. But, seeing as Mondays are usually learning days for me (Tuesdays, I write), while I am listening to a teleseminar hosted by Geoff Neuport, Senior RKC (site: http://kettlebellsecrets.com/specialer.html), interviewing Dan John (http://danjohn.net/) I thought I’d beat the iron while it’s hot.

I am taking advantage of a slight change of environment for my training for a couple of weeks, by going to a very “chichi”, expensive gym, because they were giving away a free trial membership. My own gym is literally a few blocks away, but I figured what the hell? Some pros switch gyms all the time for variety and fun. This one prides itself at having the “best trainers”, all NASM certified (which I am, among other certs). I also like that they have kettlebells there (and I find myself to be the only one using them. I even heard a staff trainer tell his client how bad it is for your joints to train with kettlebells. I let it go. The guy didn’t look like he could punch his way out of greasy paper bag, though he probably knows more about hair conditioners than an Aveda rep).
But here I was today, in my “cage” where I was going from bench press, to deadlifts, to shoulder presses and split squats. Simple, 5 ladders of 3 rungs per drill, moderate weight, good grinds. Today, I was not drawing attention by doing Turkish Get-Ups, Windmills or KB snatches. I was blending in.
What stood out, though, was watching trainers demonstrate crappy training progressions (by jumping around from one exercise to the next without rhyme or reason or purpose, letting clients move with form that resembled a house of cards trying to withstand gusty winds.)
Countless times, I saw idle trainers walk by a person working out on their own like an epileptic without even the conscious attempt to correct them! I mean, come on! You don’t have to collect money every single time from a person for a simple form correction!
As I was doing a joint mobility drill, I had a person come to me and ask for advice on how to do the same thing. Same thing when I was deadlifting, a gentleman near me was doing bent-over rows with poor form, so I corrected him, and he welcomed that. I felt great. Apparently, I demonstrated skills that these folks recognized.
It’s interesting to “secret shop” and see what others are doing. A colleague of mine sees a “sh#t show” (her words)all day at her gym in Vancouver, BC, with so-called “trainers”. Pavel Tsatsouline, Mr KB himself, has learned to not get bothered by it. I feel it is necessary to try to educate members in proper exercise techniques, but how do you do it if there is no quality control anywhere in gyms? It’s like a surgeon passing the medical boards, but botching every surgery afterwards with no consequences! Each bad move I saw was making ME hurt, so I can only imagine how the poor sap protruding his knees and going into spinal flexion during some plyo-box jump squats is going to feel later!
I propose that all trainers start a “secret shopping training guild”, go to gyms and offer our services and report anything that ultimately represents a liability to the gym by having their staff ignore proper technique. Who’s in?

Theory and Practice: a philosophical essay on progress.

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I just read a good quote that an RKC comrade uses as his signature: In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

In theory, if you gradually add a couple of pounds every week to your bench press, you should be able to press a thousand pounds over time. In practice, it doesn’t happen…
In theory, trapping an opponent’s right cross, breaking his right elbow and then twisting his right wrist into a half nelson works. In practice, it’s a lot more challenging (or in a real fight, that is, as you can practice the sequence successfully).
Should we throw out theory? Absolutely not. Theory is the foundation of philosophy, be it of the mind or of the body. Experimenting, applying the theory, which stems from a hypothesis, validates the theory, at least until proven wrong.
All things work till they don’t work anymore. The question is, why don’t they work anymore?
If you follow a certain diet and it’s working for you, then you stop losing fat or gaining muscle, whatever your goal, is the theory behind no longer valid? Has your body reached homeostasis?
Is it a matter of entropy? “An object in an unnatural state always returns to its natural state”?
The jury’s still out on this one (by jury, I mean my brain). I believe it is the change in acute variables. You may be following a strict powerlifting routine to bench press, but maybe you’ve changed the time of day for your training (the body actually likes routine, one theory implies, and you need to wave your loads in a micro, meso or macro cycle rather than “shock your muscles”, which confuses them and results in them underperforming). Or you’re sleeping pattern changed. Maybe your diet is not supporting your body’s increased caloric demand.
Unless you can isolate any given factor, or acute variable, as the culprit for your lack of continued progress (or plateau), you cannot claim with certainty that the system you’ve been using no longer works, that the theory is obsolete because it no longer works in practice.
This transitions my thought to another point: too much of your training regimen is left to chance.
Unless you categorically and systematically log your training and your nutritional intake, you are unable to analyze what needs to be modified in your training to break through your plateau. You may very well follow a certain protocol without changing its theoretical approach, because it will yield results in practice, without worrying about periodizing. For instance, I train heavy on Monday, light on Wednesday, moderate on Friday, with a couple of optional “variety” days. The drills are the same on MFW, the weight is the same but the volume differs (less reps, or sets) and I increase the load every 5-6 weeks. However, on any given day, my balance may be off. My stress level makes me less focused or I may be at 100% and perform like a champ. I log everything, every detail, observation, technique modification. I leave nothing to chance.
So, empirical evidence doesn’t disprove a theory. It may very well reinforce it if you are able to identify and isolate any given factor. A mishmash of factors creates confusion and you cannot state with certainty that this or that prevented you from reaching your goal. Address one thing, and one thing only, and see how it affects your training by keeping everything else the same. If that didn’t solve it, address a different variable.
In theory, it should work 🙂