Category Archives: Weight-Loss

Twinkie Diet

I know I am a week late on this one but I have been receiving emails since my last post where I included a link to the story of the Kansas State professor who went on the Twinkie diet and lost 27 pounds.  You can read the CNN article here but I just wanted to share a few of my opinions on the consumption of this male bodypart-like non-food product.

A breakdown of the actual diet that Mark Haub went on to drop 27lbs in 2 months consisted solely of sugary vending machine delicacies such as Ding Dongs, Snowballs, and Twinkies.  In order to maintain some basis of health, he also consumed a daily protein shake, multi-vitamin and miniscule serving of canned vegetables.  He cut back from his usual consumption of 2,600 calories per day to sub 1,600 calories per day.

What does not surprise me is that fact that he lost weight.  It has already been proven that VLCD or very low calorie diets causes weightloss in most people.  I say most because in almost every study there is always an exception to the rule.  Just look at the curious case of Benjamin Button.

What did surprise me was the fact that he improved such biomarkers of good health such as a decrease in LDL and an increase in HDL cholesterol (LDL think “lousy” and HDL think “happy”…that is how I remember it), as well as a decrease in blood lipids.  What this proves is that by decreasing your overall body fat, you will decrease your susceptibility to these health risks.

The problem with this study that it is not actually a study at all since the results come from one man.  What people shouldn’t go out believing is that this diet is healthy or will give them the same results as the professor.  The fact is that you only get a small window (2 months) into what this diet will actually do to your body.

What I am more interested in when it comes to health and fitness is longevity.  What do you think would happen to the professor if he stayed on this diet for 6 months?  What about for 6 years?  I think it’s safe to say that the consumption of all of those non-food products would eventually take their toll on your body and new problems other than being overweight will arise.  Think: “If you run through a dynamite factory with a lit match and manage to make it out the other side, that doesn’t mean your not an idiot”.

Here are the basics of calorie consumption and weight loss:

  1. Depending on your exercise habits, multiply your bodyweight by 10 to 13 to get your daily calorie intake.
  2. Follow rule 1 every day…not most days (when someone tells me this I assume they mean never).
  3. Don’t eat too little calories.  This will slow down your metabolism.
  4. Every 10 days have a “cheat” or refead day.  Don’t gorge on junk food, but do eat something you like and consume a few exta calories.
  5. Try to eat 4-6 “meals” or “feedings”.  Taper your meals as well eating a slightly larger breakfast and smaller dinner.

For example, say you currently weigh 14o pounds and exercise 3-4 times per week.  You would multiply 140 by 12 which would give you a consumption of 1680 calories.  If you try to eat 6 meals a day, divide your calories by 6 which would give you approximately 280 calories per meal.  To put this in perspective, that would be one package of snack cakes or one bottle of soda.

Sidenote: The average American consumes 680 calories per meal.  We also on average consume between 2,000 and 4,000 calories per day.

I am not going to get into what you eat because you should know the difference between healthy food and lets say a Twinkie.  All I can say is put actual “food” in your body.  If you do not know what that is then pick up Food Rules by Michael Polan to learn how to distinguish between a potato and a potato chip.

If anything, I tell my clients to begin with the caloric formula and then gradually improve the quality of the food that they eat.  It is extremely hard for the average 40-50 year old who is trying to make a change to completely eliminate the foods that they have been eating for decades.  It is more feasible to get them to alter their calorie consumption by giving them this simple formula.


Q & A: The Cleanse

Q: I have been wondering about cleanses lately- they seem to be very popular but are there actually any health benefits?  Aren’t you just better off not eating crap like processed foods?



A: Just to clear the air before I get into my feelings on cleanses, I want to state once again that I am not a nutritionist nor have I ever done a cleanse.  To that extent, the rest of this post is going to be purely opinion juiced up with some research that I am doing as I type this post.

First off, there are many types of cleanses, many of which include “fasting” of some sort and make all sorts of extravagant claims.  I’ve seen shakes, fruit only cleanses, lemon juice cleanses, herbal cleanses, and other magical potions that are supposedly aimed at banishing the evil colon trolls that inhabit your intestines.

The first thing I ask my clients or others who ask me if they should do a cleanse is whether or not they actually know what a cleanse is.  What is a cleanse supposed to do?  What are you cleansing?

I usually just get some silly response like it is going to help detoxify me followed by a blank start.  Cue crickets.  Or one of my other favorites is it removes all the gunk that builds up in my intestines over the years.  For one, how do you know there is anything built up in your intestines?  Simply eating plants should help take care of that but who am I to judge?

Another one of my favorites are the cleanses that promote fasting as part of their regimen.  Right off the bat you’ll notice that some of these cleanses include calories.  Ding, ding, ding.  McFly.  Fasting is supposed to imply that you are not eating and therefor not taking in calories.

“So I went on this fasting cleanse where I only drank one glass of maple syrup each day for one week and I could feel the stickiness pulling out all the bad things from my insides.”

WTF people?!  Are we really in an age where we believe everything we read without googling the subject or finding the answer in a research journal?  I mean this is something that is going to seriously impact your health so get off Facebook for 5 minutes and do a little bit of research.

The all-fruit cleanse is another one that I am skeptical about as it has you only eating fruits and fruit juices for 7 days.  In a culture that already has a sweet tooth lets feed you nothing but sugar.  What I believe that is promoting is your body to crave sugar.

One of the biggest problems that I see with most of the cleanses is that they are almost completely devoid of any type of protein which is an important part of our daily dietary needs.  If you persist with depriving yourself of protein your body will not be able to create enough amino acids to maintain your muscle tissue.  This means you may be looking quite starved and wasted by the time you have finished your cleanse.  Unless emaciated is the look you are going for I suggest sticking to good old fashioned whole food.

So instead of looking for a quick fix for all the processed foods you put in your body how about you just stop putting processed foods in your body?  I for one would rather stick to food than not eat and drink a shake that tastes like baby vomit and fermented peas.

Snake Oil

“Does the Acai Berry supplement really help people lose weight and become healthier?”

This question came in from a new client who is just beginning her quest for fitness and I thought it would make a great post as it is something that I have not touched upon yet.  Keep in mind that this is my own personal opinion as I am not a licenced dietician nor have I done any of my own research on supplements.  I took them in college and I don’t now.  There is a lot of controversy that surrounds which supplements work, which don’t, and which ones will make you grow hair on your back.

Too much NO products and fat burners yield this effect...

One of the definitions of supplement is “something added, especially to make up for a deficiency”.  Using this sense of the term, supplements should be used to make up for the things you are not getting in your diet.  As far as the acai berry goes, I’m pretty sure that you will survive just fine without it.  The same goes for the thousands of new diet pills and powders that hit the shelves each year.

Alwyn Cosgrove defines supplements as progress enhancers NOT progress starters.  If you can’t tighten up your nutrion and exercise plan the supplements will be as useful as pissing on a forest fire.  Which, given the right supplements will be the color of a highlighter.  Do you really think a berry is going to rid your body of fat?

But all supplements are not created equal and I do believe that there are many that you should be adding to your nutrition in order to improve your health.  These would be the ones that you add due to a deficiency and I consider them non-supplement supplements.  They would be protein (whey, casein, hemp, egg, milk, soy, animal, plant, whatever floats your boat), fats, carbs, vitamins, and minerals.  For the most part, they can be used by everyone based on thier nutritional needs and yes, they should improve your health.

Trainer approved supplement list:

  1. Protein Powder
  2. Essential Fatty Acids (fish oil, flax oil, etc.)
  3. Carbs (Gatorade for post-workout recovery)
  4. BCAA’s
  5. Greens or Veggies Supplement
  6. Multi-vitamin (stick to centrum, it’s cheaper and just as effective as GNC stuff)
  7. Creatine*

These are all nutrients that can be attained by food (even the creatine) and aid in everything from energy to recovery.

Some work but are illegal...bad Yankess, bad!

The supplement industry is a multi-billion dollar a year industry, most of which are crap.  Have you ever heard the term “snake oil’?  Some of the salespeople in these advertisements and infomercials would sell you your own underwear back and a higher price.  They use clever marketing, false studies, exagerated claims, airbrushed models (normal people don’t look like that), and care more about the money in their pockets than helping you get healthy.  Just google your supplement scams and you should find your answers.

Like I said, I have been there and done that and tried much of the crap that is on the shelves at GNC.  My heart didn’t explode, my liver didn’t shrink, they didn’t make me look any better and in the end I’m not sure if any of the gains I made back then can be attributed to the supplements.  The one supplement that I will stand by is creatine as it has been the most tested and researched supplement in history and has been proven to show results in 70% of the studies.  If you know anything about scientific research, this is huge.  Here is a huge burger.

Get the picture? Good.

Here is a link to my post on creatine and it’s benefits (for all athletes, men and women).

My general rule of thumb is if you can’t pronounce the ingredients, attain them from food, or even know what it is supposed to do then don’t take it.  In conclusion, do your research or ask a professional to do it for you to educate yourself on what you are putting into your body.

Part of a Complete Breakfast

Today I am going to share one of my favorite breakfast recipes as I am still having people tell me how hard it is for them to eat in the morning because they are rushed out the door.  My simple solution to that would be get up 30 minutes earlier.  I wake up each morning and am in the kitchen cooking up a storm by 5:15 and listening to Strenghtcoach Podcasts or other audio clips and taking notes.  Seriously, every day.  Give me one good excuse why you can’t get up a bit early to shove some good, nutritious grub down your gullet.

There is an occasional morning when I am either pressed for time or just not down to cook the usual egg white omlette with fresh chopped peppers, red onions, diced garlic, fresh thyme, and mushrooms (chopped fresh every Sunday morning) with an oatmeal sidekick with blueberries, walnuts, and cinnamon.  Don’t forget the half a grapefruit that I meticulously cut triangles out of each morning.  Yes, I eat this most days of the week but when I am rushed I usually have pre-made quinoa breakfast salad waiting for me in the fridge.

Cooking quinoa is easier than trying to figure out how to pronounce it (KEEN-wah).  This small, quick-cooking grain bullied me into first purchasing it years ago with a nutritional profile I couldn’t ignore.  High in easy-to-digest fiber and tops in protein, it has an encyclopedic vitamin and mineral profile and is positively brimming with properties thought to promote cardiovascular health, stave of certain cancers, tame headaches and migraines, provide antioxidant protection, and on and on.  This is the grain credited with keeping Incan armies strong and resilient.  Because the protein in quinoa is considered complete, it’s an ideal grain for vegetarians concerned about getting enough protein.  It includes all of the essential amino acids and is a rich source of the amino acid lysine, which promotes tissue growth and repair and supports the immune system.

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • handful berries
  • tbsp. honey
  • handful walnuts
  • dash or two cinnamon

When preparing the quinoa, I always use 1 part quinoa to two parts water.  It prepares just like oatmeal and cooks in about 10 minutes so start by gently boiling the water then adding the quinoa.  Once the water starts to evaporate, stir by fluffing the stuff with a fork until it is all soft and fluffy.  You will know when it is finished because each seed will become clear and you will be able to see the germ.  Next transfer to a tupper-ware or other container to be refridgerated.  For extra antioxidants I then add a handful of blueberries or any kind of fresh berries (tis the season) or frozen berries work really well also.  Crush some walnuts with your bare hand and add some of them also which are full of Omega-3 fatty acids and healthy fats.  I add clover honey for sweetness  but although delicious, this is optional.  Dash on some cinnamon for flavor as well as increasing glucose tolerance and better fat burning which I explained in my post “Spice it Up With Cinnamon“.

With this breakfast ready to go in your fridge you have no excuses to get super energized each morning with slow burning carbs.  Protection for every day stressors and wear and tear from super antioxidants.  Countless benefits from Omega-3 s for your brain, hair, skin, fat burning, joints, etc, etc.  And improve every aspect of your body’s ability to burn fat.  Still want to skip breakfast?

2 for 1 Sale

I have tons of great topics and ideas to post but for some reason I can’t quite get my thoughts together today.  I’ll blame it on the rain but honestly I’m pumped to go relax and finally watch Avatar tonight.  It’s hard for me to sit still and watch anything for more than 10 minutes so we’ll see how it goes.  In the spirit of blogging I am going to leave you with some of the recent things that have peaked my interest or caught my eye….Oh look something shiny…. which is not very hard.

  1. I’m going to be straight up with you all on this one, my favorite food group on the planet is chocolate.  I add it to my oatmeal, my shakes, yogurt, spinach, and cottage cheese.  Yeah, I said spinach.  Just wanted to see if you were paying attention.  But seriously I just wanted to clear up some of the confusion on the health benefits which you must realize that not all chocolate is created equal.  Packed with cancer fighting antioxidants and flavanols (almost twice as much as green tea and red wine), dark chocolate is said to relieve migraines, enhance your mood by increasing your seratonin levels, and decrease heart disease.  The darker the chocolate the better, so what you want to aim for is anything 80% cacao or higher.  My love for chocolate and passion for health has led me to the source.  100% cacao nibs, powder, or beans are natures gift to health fanatics and chocoholics like myself.  Post questions as I’m sure you may have some.
  2. One of the things I pride myself on in my training as well as working with my clients is developing a solid core.  I have posted as to why crunches are worse for you than exploding suppositories.  Ouch.  Here’s the link to that post for anyone who missed it: Monkey See, Monkey Do.  What I did not do was go over what the best ab/core exercises were.  Here is a link to explain all the science behind what those exercises are and why: Best Ab Exercises (Don’t be fooled by the name of the website, the authors of these posts are some of the best in the business, trust me).  One of the coolest new exercises that I found were the hardcore planks developed by the RKC team (Russian KettleBell) where your elbows are place closer together and further forward.  Truly badass to say the least.

The Winners

Based on this experiment, here are the top three exercises in terms of mean and peak activity for each muscle part:

Rectus Abdominis (six pack)

Mean: Chin Up, Hanging Leg Raise, Ab Wheel

Peak: Chin Up, Hanging Leg Raise, Swiss Ball Crunch

Internal Oblique

Mean: Ab Wheel from Feet, Ab Wheel from Knees, Bodysaw

Peak: Ab Wheel from Feet, Bodysaw, Tornado Ball Slam

External Oblique

Mean: Ab Wheel from Feet, Hanging Leg Raise, Bodysaw

Peak: Turkish Get Up, Hanging Leg Raise, Bodysaw

Erector Spinae (lower back)

Mean: Kneeling Cable Lift, Landmine, Reverse Hyper

Peak: Kneeling Cable Lift, Tornado Ball Slam, Lumbar Extension

Fat Loss Series: Fact vs. Fiction

Dr. Phil tells it how it is and for once it may not be all your fault.  With all of the myths about fat loss that are still circulating out there why would you be doing the right things to trim your waistline?   The problem with myths is that not only are they wrong and give false hope to millions of people trying to lose weight, but they also waste your time and mental effort.  I have also seen these myths used as justification for cheating on a diet, watching countless men and women justify their “treats” because they believe they are on some type of magical exercise program or nutrition plan.

Before I can begin to help you to understand what you can do to burn fat I need you to empty your cup and forget about all of the crap that mainstream media has implanted in your head about fat loss.  There is no special diet or  miracle supplement that will burn fat.  This is a key concept so I am going to repeat it: THERE IS NO DIET OR SUPPLEMENT THAT WILL HELP YOU LOSE FAT.  So if you feel like throwing money down the toilet then go to “America’s Biggest Sellout” Jillian Michael’s site and buy some of her crap products.  I will get more into that another time.

Want to lose weight? Buy my crap.

I could go on and on about all of the fitness and weight loss myths that I have encountered in my career as a personal trainer but I have narrowed down the list to the top 5.

Myth #1:  As long as we burn enough enough calories we will burn excess fat and lose weight.

We’ve all heard that to burn fat we need to create a caloric deficit by eating less and exercising more.  If it was that simple, none of us would have a weight problem.  No one ever tells you that the more you exercise, the hungrier you get.  And even if you manage to give up eating your favorite food for awhile, your weight loss results come so slowly, you might decide it’s not worth the effort.  For weight control, it really doesn’t matter how much you eat and exercise, what matters most is knowing how to correctly balance your eating with your exercise.  Learn how to maximize your diet and exercise program to turn your body into a fat burning machine 24-7.

Myth#2: Lifting heavy weights is not good if you want to lose weight because you will bulk up.

Actually, science has proven that for both men and women heavy weight lifting will help you maintain or lose weight at an accelerated rate.  Not only do will you burn a ton of calories during your workout, your body will continue to burn calories for the next 36-48 hrs after your session.  With that said, if you are only exercising a few hours a week and your main goal is weight loss then you should focus 100% on weight training.  It is the area where you will receive the most benefit plus it’s way more fun then sitting on an eliptical for 45min.

Myth#3: You have to do cardio for at least 20 minutes before you begin to burn fat.

If you are following a proper diet and exercise program then your body should continue to metabolize fat stores throughout the day.  Your body will burn calories as soon as your heart rate becomes elevated in response to exercise so essentially your body will metabolize fat no matter what kind of workout you do.  You can burn fat sitting on the couch watching tv.  Seriously.  If you want to burn fat and raise your metabolism to continue burning fat in respect to doing cardio then make sure your workouts are intense and challenging.  If you are able to do cardio for much more than 20 minutes you are not working out hard enough.  Push yourself and the rewards will be great.

Myth#4: Fat-free food is good for you and fruit will make you gain weight.

Some people indulge in extra-large servings of fat-free foods, such as cookies, cakes and crackers, without realizing that these foods may contain the same amount or even more calories than regular versions. Get the facts on fat-free foods by checking food labels for the serving size and number of calories per serving. Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories. However, other low fat or no fat foods may still contain a lot of calories. To make such foods taste better, extra sugar, flour, or starch thickeners are usually added. These ingredients are high in calories and may lead to weight gain.

Myth#5: The only way to burn fat is to eat less and exercise more.

If it was that simple, none of us would have a weight problem.  No one ever tells you that the more you exercise, the hungrier you get. And even if you manage to give up eating your favorite food for awhile, your weight loss results come so slowly, you might decide it’s not worth the effort. For weight control, it really doesn’t matter howmuch you eat and exercise, what matters most is knowing how to correctly balance your eating with your exercise.

I could go on but I think that this is a good start to get you on the right track for fat loss.  I am going to keep up with the posts on fat loss and am going to continue to clarify some of the myths about exercise, nutrition, and everything in between periodically in my posts.  If you have a question that you can’t seem to get a straight answer to then post it.  This site is for you all so the more questions I receive, the more I will post.

Steve’s Fat-loss Series: Introduction

I was a little unsure of how to I was going to begin this post so I’m simply going to use that word that everyone is familiar with.  The F-word.  Fat.  There I said it.  The fact is that we are all not only fat, we are fatter than ever before.  We know what we have to do to lose it and yet we keep gaining weight.  Our health suffers and we begin this downward spiral of health issues and weight gain that lead to trying some fad diet that may initially work but then it fails.  We may try exercise and not see the loss of a single pound.  What the f*#! is the problem?

Well, actually there are many problems and for sake of not beating a dead horse over the head with a blunt object I am not going to get into that with you.  I am a realist and I am going to assume that you know why you are fat.  What I am going to do is give you the most up-to-date, research driven facts about how to torch that fat and play the piano.  Maybe not the latter but I am going to give you all of the pieces of the so-called metabolic puzzle that will help you attack that fat from every direction and make all your dreams come true.  

The first thing I want to make clear is that you cannot lose weight using low fat diets.  Low fat foods have been popular for more than 15 years and yet our society is getting more overweight as each year passes.  This fact alone should tell you that eating a purely low fat menu is not the answer to losing weight.  Low carb diets have recently become popular over the last couple years, but the problem with low carb menus  is that they are too strict and too hard to follow for average people.   Low carb menus tend to rob your body of too much energy(carbohydrates) and make it nearly impossible to remain on the program for very long.  What you DO need to do is raise your metabolic rate along with proper diet and proper exercise.

This is how your metabolism works and without getting too in depth, years of eating crap and not exercising has caused not only your basal metabolic rate to slow down it probably takes up a larger portion of the pie chart.  Mmmmm pie.  No good for your metabolism.  You try to eat healthier and exercise a little bit and to be honest with you thats not enough.  Here are the top 5 ways to increase your metabolism in order from most important to least important:

  1. Proper nutrition
  2. see #1
  3. Activities that burn calories and maintain/promote muscle mass and increase your metabolism (lifting heavy weights)
  4. Activities that burn calories and increase your metabolism (High Intensity Intervals)
  5. Activities that burn calories and do not maintain muscle mass or increase your metabolism (long steady state cardio)

Proper nutrition aside, what you want to focus on for activity to increase your are the ones that will increase your metabolism.  Tied for first place in that category would be heavy resistance training  and metabolic acceleration resistance training such as metabolic bodyweight circuits.  Try running up several flights of stairs or try a round of 15 burpees, 15 pushups, and 15 bodyweight squats, then 14, then 13, etc., etc. and see how out of breath you get.  Next in line would be aerobic high intensity intervals which can be done on any pieces of cardio equipment or outdoors.  So unless you are training for an endurance sport, such as running a marathon, there is no real reason to focus on long cardio sessions that only burn calories (and your time).

So if you are looking to burn fat through exercise and only have 3-4 hours a week to spend working out why not spend them working on the activities that matter?  In that case only do heavy resistance training or metabolic acceleration exercise such as high intensity resistance circuits.  If you have 4-6 hours to devote to exercise then include the high intensity aerobic interval training.  If you have more than 6 hours then extra calorie burning activities such as long cardio sessions may be added to burn more calories.  Now hopefully you will have somewhere new to focus your energy while at the gym

I am going to stop there for now and let you know that this is only the introduction to a 9 part series of how you will be able to increase your metabolism through proper diet and exercise.  In the next post I will be explaining just what your body needs to do to “burn” body fat and what you can do to speed up the process.  I will also be clearing up some of the common myths about diet and exercise when it comes to weight loss.  Until then I just need you to get into the metabolic mindset.  Remember:

“Rowing harder doesn’t help if the boat is headed in the wrong direction.” – Kenichi Ohmae

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