Food Wars Troubleshoot

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… It is a period of civil war.

Rebel veggies, striking from a hidden base, have won

their first victory against the evil Carbohydrate Empire.

During the battle, Rebel bacon managed to steal low-carb

plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the Death Grain,

a genetically modified space station with enough gluten to

destroy an entire planet.

Pursued by the Empire’s sinister sugars, Princess Paleo races

home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that

can save her people and restore insulin to South Beach…

As the diet and nutrition war wages on confusion grows over what and how we should eat to keep getting stronger and manage our weight.  I’m sure you all get the above movie reference.  At least if you want to remain friends you do.  Star Wars…it’s Star Wars.

Anyways, I have been getting a sudden influx of diet and nutrition questions which I’m assuming is due to the holiday season which is now upon us and thought it would be helpful to put together a common nutrition question troubleshoot for everyone.  Oh, and before I forget, I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your families and loved ones!

Common Diet/Nutrition Questions:

Should I stop eating grains?

  • If you have a gluten intolerance (5% of the population but don’t quote me on that) then you should cut out wheat.
  • If you are trying to lose fat it would be wise to limit them but you don’ t have to cut them out completely to see results.
  • If you are active and happy with your weight and do not have an intolerance, then enjoy your food!

If I cut gluten out of my diet will I lose fat?

  • Cutting any calorie source out of your diet MAY help you lose fat as long as you don’t replace it with other calories.  Gluten doesn’t make you fat, a combination of genetic predisposition and poor food choices does.  Unless you have an intolerance to gluten (chances are you don’t) you don’t have to eliminate it from your diet.

Should I cut sugar out of my diet?

  • Limiting or eliminating empty calories from processed sugars is probably a good idea, especially if you are trying to manage your weight.
  • Sugars from fruits are still sugars but contain other nutrients and fiber that are far more important than weight management.  Eat fruit, just don’t binge on it.

Is eating Paleo good?  Is it bad?

  • There are millions of paleo zealots who believe that is the only way a human should eat.  Many fitness and nutrition experts have debunked that myth.  My impression is that if it will get you to eat more vegetables, lean meats and healthy fats than you would otherwise then have at it.
  • It isn’t necessarily bad but it does miss out on some great foods such as peanut butter, coffee, beans, fermented foods (yogurt, kombucha, saurkraut, kefir, etc) and others I’m sure I’m missing that do amazing things for your body.
  • It also doesn’t take into account that an occasional cookie, bowl of icecream, or nacho platter won’t kill you.
  • I’m also sure that paleolithic man probably ate some pretty nasty stuff when it comes down to it that we wouldn’t even consider now.

What is the best diet to lose weight?

  • Every fad diet will work if you follow it but it will only help for so long and may adversely affect other areas of your health.  The problem is each fad diet is missing at least one key component to human health.

What is the deal with intermittent fasting?

  • I have tried fasting for 16/8, 24hr fasts and longer.  I had no problem dropping body fat but I also don’t have a problem when I just tighten up my diet a bit.  I did lose a good deal of strength in the process but I am also in the upper end of strength for my body.
  • Research shows it can positively effect your hormones, help you lose weight/fat.
  • If it works for you then do it but you don’t have to be super strict at all times.  Have breakfast every once in a while :-)

When is the best time to eat breakfast?

  • It’s a better idea to learn to listen to your body rather than skip meals (intermittent fasting) OR force yourself to eat breakfast.  Eat when you start to feel hungry, NOT when you are starving.
  • Breakfast is the most confusing meal of the day for most people because too much conventional wisdom and too many sources say “you must do it this way…” rather than “find out what works best for you and roll with the punches”.

What should I have for breakfast?

  • As with all meals, protein, vegetables and healthy fats are the best choice (personally, I choose to destroy eggs by the half dozen).
  • Other good choices are: meat, avocados, dairy (including milk, cottage cheese, yogurt), smoothie, protein shake, nuts and any and all veggies.  These look familiar right?

How do I gain weight?

  • Eat.  For those with a small frame or ‘hard gainers’, if you are looking to pack on muscle and size and you are not eating to the point of discomfort you are doing it wrong.

I’m trying to lose fat, should I cut out fruit?

  • Unless you are days away from a bodybuilding or figure show there is no need to eliminate fruit from your diet as long as you keep your other starches in check.  Fruit is always a better choice than starch or grains in my opinion.

I don’t like the taste of protein powder (whey), do I have to eat it to get lean?

  • Whey is a great way to get more protein in your diet and is easier to consume than other sources but that is it.  If you struggle to get enough protein in your diet it is a good option but not the only one.
  • Eat more eggs, lean meat and dairy.
  • Stay away from soy protein (men and women) as it tends to be processed and genetically modified in most cases.

What supplements should I take?

  • Creatine
  • fish oil
  • vitamin D
  • food supplements such as whey and a green (veggie) supplement
  • ****spend your money on good, whole foods****

Do I have to track calories?

  • It isn’t necessary for everyone but if it helps then, yes.
  • If you have been struggling to lose weight for a while then tracking may be a GREAT idea to help you understand your daily caloric intake as well as how much protein/carb/fat you get in your diet.  You may be surprised.
  • If you are in tune with your body then it may be easier to manipulate your calories without counting them.  If you want to lose weight, systematically eat less.  If you want to gain muscle systematically eat more.

What should I eat before my workout?

  • Eat what makes you feel good and energetic.
  • Don’t eat too much as a full stomach probably won’t make you feel great and all the digestion will make you a little more sluggish.
  • Protein with a little carbs or a little fat is always a good choice.  200-400 calories about an hour before your workout depending on your size and how it makes you feel is a good rule of thumb.

What should I eat post-workout?

  • Conventional wisdom says protein which is actually always a good choice.  Some starchy carbs or sugars are a good idea as well as they digest quickly and aid in recovery.
  • ****In the grand scheme of things if you miss your post workout ‘window’ it is okay as your total intake over the whole day/week plays a bigger role in muscle growth and recovery than nutrient timing.****

Okay, enough nutritional wizardry for now.  I”m sure I missed a thing or two above so question up in the comment section below.  If I’m way off the mark on one of my answers please let me know, I am wrong sometimes….just ask Lindsay. :-)

Stuff to Check Out and Update on AMP

It’s been a week since my last post and I wish there was a better reason than I have been in a funk but that just about sums it up.  Last week I got some more bad news regarding my business which sets me back several months.

As many of you may know I have been struggling to open my facility in downtown Boston (still trying to find space) and dealing with middle men, investment firms and brokers has been a frustrating experience to say the least.  I’m sure it is tough in any industry but especially one where you need to maintain client relationships in the process.

Well, last week I lost out on the third space I have worked so hard to close on (since August) as the investment firm I would have been renting from decided to throw a curveball before signing papers and require a 50k deposit!!  What the $#%#, m#@$# %^&$!!!!!!!!!!!!

Deep breath.  Now, I’m no business expert but I would assume that since they knew my budget from day one 3 months ago this is something that could have been laid out right from the get-go?  AmIright?

Anywho, it put me in a mega funk as I feel like I’m letting a lot of people down who are eager to train.  And now I feel like I have been letting my readers down by not posting.  It’s a vicious cycle.

Before I share a few articles and other stuff I feel you should check out I will let you know that I WILL NOT be beat.  I have another prospective location that I am working hard to secure.  We will be lifting heavy objects and training in no time!

Here’s the list:

Inner City Weightlifting

This is something that will warm your heart and restore some of your faith in humanity.  The non-profit, Inner City Weightlifting, is a group whose goal is reduce street and gang violence by offering a weightlifting classes to underprivileged youth around the Boston area.

I can’t speak highly enough about what this organization is doing for these kids as well as the city of Boston so head over to their site to read more about their mission and what they are doing.  ESPN even did a special on ICW and if you have a few minutes I recommend checking it out, it will warm your heart:

This is a great cause and they appreciate any donations to support their cause.  I emailed the director myself and plan to head over for a workout with the kids and see firsthand the good that can be done in this world.

Eric Cressey – Why You Struggle to Train Overhead: And What to Do About It

Eric is just on another level when it comes to helping people move better and train smarter.  He is quickly becoming the jedi-master of the strength training and coaching world but enough bromance for now.  His latest post on how (and who shouldn’t) train overhead is the bees knees.

Lat Pulldown Technique

Last but not least is my latest article on Built Lean teaching proper form and alternatives for the lat pulldown exercise.  I know, I know….I preach that everyone should be working towards pull-ups and chin-ups but for some this may be a much better option.  Find out why as well as check out a great alternative if you have cranky shoulders or elbows.

Here is one of the exercises I show, the half kneeling 1-arm cable pulldown (say that 10 times fast):

P.S. You always know winter is coming the more translucent my skin gets.

Don’t Underestimate the Fundamentals

One of the biggest mistakes I see many beginners, novices and even veterans make is trying to master Van Halen’s Eruption guitar solo before mastering the scales…I know, what does this have to do with fitness?  I will explain but first if there is anyone reading this that is unfamiliar with Eruption please Google it now for extreme guitargasm.  You’re welcome.

The obvious analogy here is failing to master the basics or disregarding the fundamentals before moving on to the next exciting program or cool new exercise, oh look something shiny!

Heck, I’m even guilty of this myself and found myself quite humbled just yesterday as I decided to do some Turkish Get-ups then throw in some planks at the end for shits and giggles.  There were no shits and hardly any giggles.  The get-ups were challenging with a 12kg kettlebell and then 20 seconds into a plank I was shaking like a leaf.

Wait, what?  Less than a year ago I was able to tame the 48kg (105lbs) get-up.  I also consider a 400lb deadlift to be a walk in the park so how could I get torched doing a bodyweight plank?

It was a very humbling experience to say the least.

Admittedly, I can’t remember the last time that I included regular ol’ planks in my programming and instead rely on squats, deadlifts and pull-ups as well as ab-wheel rollouts for my ‘core’ work.  I obviously overestimated the value of the big lifts and underestimated the fundamentals.

The next step for me is to take a step backwards which in my opinion is one of the hardest things for anyone to do.  One thing I ask many of my new clients who already have some experience with lifting and training is whether or not they are willing to go back and (re)master the basics (the way I coach them of course).

Sometimes this is what it takes to move forward and go from good to great.

So for me, for now, going back and focusing on some of the fundamentals will yield a much better result than dominating a 500lb deadlift.  There will, however, be plenty of time for that later! ;)


Dumbbell One-Arm Floor Press

Has anyone checked out the new Alfonso Cuarón flick, Gravity?  Lindsay and I went last night and I have to give it two thumbs up for being visually stunning and a real cool experience to see what an astronaut experiences while just hanging out in the vastness of space.  Really effing cool.

Not only that but George Clooney has once again proven that he is not only the best looking man on earth but he has now officially dominated space as well.  Seriously, who else would sweet talk a woman as he floats away to certain death?  I will have to take a page from that book.

And I digress, but speaking of gravity today’s post is regarding a one-arm dumbbell bench press which if you have ever tried to perform with heavy weight you have found out how much gravity can suck.  See what I did there?  Eh?

Seriously though, and more specifically, the one-arm press is a stellar unilateral pressing exercise that not only challenges your shoulders stabilizers but completely torches your core and forces your hips and legs to stabilize so you don’t, well, tip over.

Even better for some people would be the dumbbell one-arm floor press which is the same exercise done flat on the floor rather than a bench.

Technique Tips:

  • Keep your forearm perpendicular to the ground
  • Lat tight, arm roughly at 45 degrees
  • quick pause on floor after each rep
  • NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER transfer the weight over your face (for obvious reasons)
  • Start with your legs wider and go narrower when you become more proficient

P.S. I am aware that I am translucent in this video.  I blame the lighting and my 1/4 Irish heritage…just don’t stare directly into the Steve.

Now, I know what you’re asking yourself right now, “Why one arm?” and “Why floor press?”

For general population strength training as well as for athletes, one-arm pressing is a great way to train your core/hips to prevent rotation as well as to force the stabilizing muscles in your shoulder to work harder.  This is a win-win I say!

Taking it to the floor is a great way to take your legs out of the equation and force your core to work doubletime.  It is important to note that if you try to take your feet off the ground while on a bench you will surely perish flip over the bench and kiss the floor which may not be as bad as perishing but still sucky nonetheless.

I recommend starting much lighter than you are used to with your traditional dumbbell bench press until you get the hang of it.  Believe me, one-arm presses on the floor or bench are extremely humbling.  They are also self limiting and will be a great teacher of total body tension and stability.

The other benefit of pressing from the floor is for those with cranky shoulders, poor stabilizers or poor pressing technique.  The floor prevents your elbow from dropping too low and forcing your shoulder into anterior glide (fancy way of saying your shoulder migrates forward out of centration/the socket).  Here are a few pictures to illustrate:

Shoulder anterior glide (not centered)
Shoulder centered.

You will notice in the first picture that my shoulder is coming forward which will irritate the front of the joint for some people with cranky shoulders and for those without bad shoulders it will eventually cause them to be bad.  Breaking bad.  Terrible pun, I know.

Give them a try and let me know what you think!

Exercise Doesn’t Make You Burn Fat!

I know, it’s something you probably didn’t want to hear but it’s time we all face the ugly fact; exercise isn’t going to make you to lose fat.  I’m not writing this because of a new study that came out so if you’re only reading this looking for “scientific” evidence then read no further.  Nor do I have nothing to sell you so there is no reason to create a poorly conducted study where n=1 to sway you towards a buying a useless product or service (what 99% of the media is doing).  I’m just sick of pulling my hair out trying to get people to understand a few simple facts.

Yes, I am a personal trainer and strength coach and as such it is part of my job is to get people to exercise.  In fact, coaching exercise is the largest part of my job.  I’m just done of watching people get lied to.

Exercise doesn’t make you lose fat.

There are many in the fitness industry who will disagree and crucify me for writing this but I don’t care.  I’m sure you’re thinking that I’ve gone off the deep end, blown past Gary Busey crazy, and have went straight up Charlie Sheen nuts.  #winning.  Well, I may have but that is besides the point.

The question you really need to ask yourself is “Why there are more gyms in the United States, fitness DVDs, and exercise equipment than ever before and we are still getting fatter?!”  Not only that but because of the plethora of options available there are MORE people exercising!  What gives?!

Low and behold, exercise is probably not the problem.  It’s our approach.

Myth #1: You’re doing the wrong type of exercise to lose fat.

Maybe, but that may not affect your results as much as you may think.

There are some trainers out there who will tell you it is because you are using the elliptical, jogging or taking Zumba class to lose weight.  You have to lift heavy weights and challenge your cardiac capacity blahbitty blah blah blah.  Heck, I have been one of those trainers and I now admit that it was a wrong way of thinking.

The more I think about it there are people that WILL lose fat doing those activities and there are people that will NOT lose fat lifting weights, doing the latest workout from the Biggest Loser, or taking Crossfit classes.  So why would I tell someone they have to stop doing Zumba and start lifting weights to lose fat?

Note: In full disclosure I LOVE lifting heavy weights and feel that everyone should train with free weights to get stronger for a whole smorgasbord of other reasons which I will mention later.

Myth #2: You need to work out longer and harder to “feel the burn!”

If you work out doing Prancercize™ for 30 minutes, one day a week then this may be true but for those busting their ass and training 4-5x/week for 60 min each workout this just doesn’t hold any water.

With trainers and TV shows like the Biggest Loser yelling at you to work out harder and longer or you won’t be in the ‘fat burning zone’ it’s no wonder people think they need to crush themselves in order to lose weight.  This pisses me off to no end because it simply isn’t true.  For a lot of people, the longer and harder you work out the more likely you will:

  • continue to over eat due to hunger
  • sit or remain inactive when you’re not at the gym because your tired
  • make poor food choices because you think you ‘earned’ it

Myth #3: The latest fatloss product or supplement is going to help speed up the process.

Whenever I hear “This exercise will help you lose fat” or “This workout is guaranteed to help you melt away abdominal fat” I want to slam my face into a brick wall.  Trainers like Jillian Michaels who pimp their supplements or those who sell cellulite-blasting, tummy-toning, gut-busting workouts or products to make an extra buck need to be shot.

Honestly, any exercise done with enough vigor can potentially help you burn calories which is why pieces of crap like the ShakeWeight and Ab Blaster type things are still sold.

The fact is that you CAN lose weight without exercise.  What you CAN’T do is lose weight without proper eating habits.  In my experience, the only people who I’ve seen be able to lose fat and maintain a healthy body weight  are those who focus on nutrition for fat loss and focus on exercise for fitness and well being.

“If you want to lose weight or decrease body fat you MUST start and continue  your efforts by changing your eating habits and potentially your lifestyle.”


I’m sorry but that is the reality.  Wait, I’m not sorry.  Now you know the truth!

The number one rule of weight loss or fat loss always comes down to calories in vs. calories out.  I know it is a vast oversimplification of the matter but for the most part it is that simple.  And for those of you who say that different nutrients have different effects on the body, you are right.  But in the grand scheme of things this is universally true.

You could argue that all you have to do is work out harder and longer to tip the scale in your favor but that method will only work for so long.  In actuality it is FAR easier to cut back on your daily/weekly calorie intake than it is to ‘burn’ the same amount during your workouts.

Unless you are Michael Phelps, you are probably only burning between 400 and 800 calories during each workout.  That may only equate to one extra serving  or over-sized portion at dinner.  It could also be that Starbucks mochafrappiato that you had at luch time that will undo your entire grueling 2hr workout.  Sad but true.

A venti mocha (espresso drink) has upwards 650cal, 20g fat and 95g sugar. How’s that for a meal replacement? That equals 8 scoops of icecream. Just sayin’.

That being said, I know you want to ask “So how come I lost weight when I started workout out?”

Yes, most people will lose weight when they start working out but 9 times out of 10 it is water and food weight and chances are that progress will slow and plateau shortly after.  NO ONE that starts an exercise program to lose fat is going to continue eating poorly.  But without proper attention and consideration they will slip back to their habitual eating habits and progress will come to a screeching halt.  And rather than re-focusing on their diet they typically begin to work out harder and longer with their new found fitness under the assumption that is the problem.

My top 3 tips for fatloss (in order):

  1. Get your calories in check.  This is rule numero uno.  Buckle down and track your food intake for a couple weeks and count calories.  Most people haven’t the slightest clue how much they actually eat on a daily/weekly basis.  I don’t recommend doing this forever (unless it really helps) as it is hard to maintain but starting out this way can give you valuable insight into what you are consuming.  This will ensure you are on the right track right from the get go.
  2. Limit your starchy carb intake, especially sugars (fruit NOT included).    Everything is low carb this and low carb that nowadays but carbs AREN’T the problem, it’s our relationship with them.  Starchy carbs are beneficial when you are training hard but considering most of us work at desk that is hardly the case.  Eat some, not a lot, close to when you workout (before or after) and especially limit them on days when you are sitting for 10-12hrs.  Carbs won’t kill you but they are easy to over eat which will drive up your calorie count in a heart beat!
  3. Eat protein sources (meat, eggs, dairy, Greek yogurt), healthy fat (avocados, nuts, olive oil, coconut oil), and veggies at every meal.  Protein produces the highest feeling of satiety of all the nutrients and veggies are simply more bang for your buck since they are so low in calories and nutrient dense per serving.  Healthy fats (avocado, nuts, olive oil, coconut oil) are important too and good to eat at every meal just make sure to keep the intake moderate.  But do load up on the protein and veggies!

Honestly, it’s REALLY EASY to lose fat but it is very hard to maintain which is why so many people see success after the first few weeks but little thereafter.  To succeed, it always starts at the beginning and as soon as you ask yourself, “How long is this going to take?”, you have already set yourself up for failure.  It is going to take a paradigm shift and a lifestyle change to make fat loss happen and a lifelong commitment to make it stick.  If you aren’t willing to make those changes it may be wise to change your goals.

And before I am burned at the stake, I do believe exercise will help you lose fat but if and only if you are on top of your nutrition habits.  And before I go, I want to take a second to explain to you why EVERYONE should workout regularly:

What exercise does do:

  • Enhances your mood and can help with depression
  • Reduce the risk and complication of diabetes
  • Lowers your risk for heart disease and cancer
  • Grows new brain cells
  • Gives you energy
  • Increases sexual function

What using free weights to train does do:

  • Helps you build muscle (women more than likely will not have the ability to build as much as men, you will get toned)
  • Gets you stronger
  • Decreases muscle imbalances caused by modern living
  • Decreases risk of injury
  • Is a measurable way to determine progress

Final Note: Now that I have that off my chest, I do believe exercise will HELP you if you make a change to your nutrition habits and lifestyle first.  Use your workouts and training as a way to get stronger and more fit.  If you understand this then you will get far more out of both your fitness and fat loss goals!

Whether you agree, disagree with me or are somewhere in between I want to hear what you have to say so comment below.  (Please forward all hate mail to