Saturday, June 27, 2015

Finding What Fuels You

When embarking on your fitness journey, try not to get caught up in the trappings of trying to figure out the "right" way to train. Sure, there are some general guidelines to follow for building lean muscle and burning fat, but there is no "one right way" to do it!
Fitness is more about finding what fuels you; learning what type of training you enjoy and that motivates you, so you enjoy the process and stick with it! Learn to figure out your OWN body; what works, what doesn't, etc. Everyone is different, and even if you find someone who looks nearly identical to you in height, weight, structure, etc., you can be assured that their body is completely different than yours. What works for one person may not work for another.
So rather than being overwhelmed with all of the different information out there on training, nutrition, etc., don't be afraid to continuously experiment with different training methods that you find, until you find what works for YOU.

Enjoy the journey, and train hard!

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Meal Cadence (Properly Timed Eating)

So often, the focus on nutrition is what to eat, and how much to eat. But another important factor that is often overlooked is the timing of meals. When you are actively involved in fitness, how often you eat is extremely important. Forget the old "three square meals a day" adage. I believe that it is crucial to supply your body with nutrients about every 3 hours, and there are several reasons why.

Whether you are in a "bulking" phase looking to add mass, or a "cutting" phase looking to shed body fat, the 3 hour rule applies across the board! First let us look at why it is important for someone looking to get lean to eat every 3 hours; when you supply your body with a steady stream of nutrients, you keep your "furnace" (metabolism) revved up, which will in turn keep you in a better fat burning mode all day long. Second, when you eat more frequent meals, you avoid having to eat overly large quantities in a single sitting, in order to meet your daily caloric needs. Another benefit of eating smaller meals is that you do not overload your GI system, and allow your body to better absorb more of the nutrients you are providing it. It is important to note that this method of eating begins within an hour of waking up; this is very important to kick start your metabolism for the rest of the day!

Now let us look at why meal cadence is important for the person looking to bulk (add lean muscle). Eating every 3 hours ensures that you minimize your body being in a catabolic (muscle burning) state, which is counterproductive to gaining muscle. The other benefits that apply to the person looking to cut body fat also apply to the person bulking! Better nutrient absorption, less GI system stress, and the allowance of smaller meals since the frequency of eating is increased.

Whether you are looking to lose body fat or add lean muscle, eating every 3 hours or so is universally beneficial. The only real difference between these goals is the amount of food that is eaten at each sitting. While the person looking to lose body fat may have 3 main meals with a couple of snacks in-between, the person looking to gain weight will need to eat full meals at each sitting.

Enjoy the journey and train hard!

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Setting Clearly Defined Fitness Goals

One of my "50 Biggest Fitness Mistakes Beginners Make," not having clearly defined goals can be detrimental to your success. The biggest benefit of creating goals for yourself is that it gives you something to strive for, and ultimately, keep you motivated. When you first embark on your fitness journey, you have to ask yourself "what do I want to achieve?"
Setting clearly defined goals will in turn, allow you to have a plan of action to achieve them! If you do not have a goal (or several goals) before you enter the wonderful world of fitness, you are more likely to aimlessly plot along, just instinctively doing whatever comes to mind at the time. Now I will say, instinctive training has it's place, and I use it often; but I have been weight training for almost 20 years, so I have a solid foundation of experience and vast knowledge to be able to do this. I believe there is no place for instinctive training for a beginner.
As previously stated, I feel that the biggest benefit of setting goals is the motivation factor. In order to keep yourself motivated, (and trust me, you WILL lose motivation from time to time) it is best to set both short AND long term goals for yourself.
Think out of the box; these goals do not need to be strictly number oriented i.e., losing/gaining weight, lifting more weight, more reps, etc. Get creative based on what you hope to achieve. Maybe you want to be able to run a 5K within 3 months. Maybe you want to improve your resting heart rate, or go from 1 workout a week to 3 or 4! Maybe you want to be able to hike up a local mountain (sorry my Florida peeps, I know, I know..) without keeling over, near death!
Whatever your goals may be, it is important to define them, and then create a plan to accomplish them. Setting short term goals (meaning a goal you want to reach say, every 8-12 weeks) will hold you accountable week by week. Hopefully, if you can stay on track with your short term goals, you will ultimately reach your long term goals (goals that may take a year or so to accomplish). Lastly, and probably most important, is to write your goals and your plan of action down! This way, it is not just an idea in your head, but something tangible you can look at and have as a daily reminder.
Enjoy the journey, and train hard!

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Free Weights vs. Machines

Free weights (dumbbells and barbells) and machines both have their place in the gym. Let us examine some of the pros and cons of each...
The biggest benefit of free weights is the requirement of stability. When using free weights, your body's stabilizer muscles that surround the joints are required to perform. This is especially true when using dumbbells, because now each arm's stabilizer muscles have to work independently. For example, if you are doing a seated overhead dumbbell shoulder press, or a lying dumbbell chest press, each shoulder, pectoral muscle, and shoulder/elbow stabilizers have to do the work. This unilateral work will ensure that you minimize strength and size imbalances between each side of the body, top to bottom, and front to back.
The drawback to free weights is safety. If you are a beginner, or unsure of proper form and usage, you have a greater risk of injury with free weights, especially if you are not using a spotter.

Machines offer a variety of exercises for every body part. There are different types of machines, i.e. cable resistance, plate loading (offers more of a free weight feel), cable resistance with swivels (to encourage extra stability work), etc. Machines are great for beginners, because they move through a fixed range of motion, which minimizes the risk for injury. Cable resistance is also beneficial in offering a different feel than free weights, which rely solely on the weight and gravity. There are also many machines that give you movement options that simply cannot be mimicked with free weights. Machines do not require a spotter, which is another benefit for a beginner. The downside to machines is that they do not recruit as much muscle as free weights, and therefore should not be used solely (without free weights).

Conclusion: I would say that my personal regimen is made up of around 70% free weights and 30% machine work. Both have their rightful place in a workout regimen, and I feel that everyone should try and implement both in their workouts. However, I feel that in the long run, free weight training will always be KING. Mass building exercises such as squats, dead lifts, pull ups, rows (barbell/dumbbell), military press, dumbbell shoulder press, chest press, etc. all utilize free weights. The best way to ensure that you are getting a well rounded workout attacking the muscles from all angles/positions is through using both free weights and machines. But I suggest that free weights should always remain the foundation of your routine! Train hard!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Losing The Fat

Stop focusing on getting "skinny," period. Instead, aim your focus on getting stronger and building lean muscle. This is the best way to burn fat. Add more lean muscle to your frame, and get that metabolism revved up!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Smart Lifting

One of my "50 Biggest Fitness Mistakes Beginners Make" topics, lifting smart vs. lifting with ego will allow you to make way better progress, and will allow you to be much less likely to suffer severe injury. Trust me, I've been through it so I can give personal insight to the topic.
When bodybuilding for aesthetics (muscle growth and symmetry), it is far more important to train with a weight you can handle (and which allows you to keep proper form) then to try and throw heavy weight around for the sake of seeing how heavy you can lift. Keep an eye out for my future eBook, where I will go into further detail on this subject. Train hard and train smart! 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Calories: Bulking and Cutting (Part II- Macronutrients)

In part I of this post, I talked about where to start in terms of a calorie range for bulking and cutting. Here in part II, I will discuss macronutrients, their percentages, and why they can be even more important than counting overall calories.

For simplicity, let us first understand macronutrients. Macronutrients (or macros, for short) are the major nutrients your body uses. These are: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Micronutrients are your vitamins and minerals.

Let me first give you a perfect example of why having a proper macro split can be more important than just counting calories: Lets say a woman (we'll call her Jane) who is looking to achieve fat loss exercises regularly (is very active), but has a slow metabolism (puts on fat easily). Jane actually found an ideal calorie range that would work for her body, but it isn't working. Lets say she is tracking her food, and I take a look at her numbers and see what her macro split is. After review, I see that she is eating 50% carbs, 30% fat, and 20% protein.

Right away I have spotted the problem. Even though Jane is active, she has a slow metabolism and easily puts on fat. Well if 50% of her calories are coming from carbs, and 30% are coming from fat, Jane is not going to be losing any fat anytime soon. She will also most likely not add any new lean muscle and will possibly burn a decent amount of her current muscle, because her protein intake is too low. I would immediately tell Jane that she should probably try a 40/40/20 split (carbs/protein/fat) to start with, and adjust accordingly from there (she may need to drop the carbs a bit more).

But a 40/40/20 split is not going to work for everyone, because EVERY body functions differently. Lets take myself for example. I am an ectomorph (or what is known as a classic "hardgainer"). This means that I naturally carry little muscle, but also little fat. I can eat pretty much anything without having to worry about putting fat on, but I have to work extremely hard to keep (and add) new muscle. All of that being said, coupled with my lightning speed metabolism, and I am better served with a 50/30/20 split (carbs/protein/fat).

This is why it is so important to look at WHAT you are eating, not just how much! It is also important to clearly define your goal(s) so you can adjust your nutrition as needed. Now lets do just a little bit of math to understand how to calculate your macros:

Carbs- 4 calories per gram
Protein- 4 calories per gram
Fat- about 9 calories per gram

Lets say you are looking to cut, are eating 1800 calories a day, and have a macro split of 40/40/20 (carbs/protein/fat). This means you need 40% of your total calories to come from carbs, 40% to come from protein, and 20% to come from fat. So...

Carbs- 40% of 1800 calories = 720 calories. Since carbs have 4 calories per gram, you are looking at
180 grams of carbs per day.
Protein- since your protein is also 40%, and protein also contains 4 calories per gram, your protein intake will also be 180 grams per day.
Fat- 20% of 1800 calories = 360 calories. Since fat has 9 calories per gram, you are looking at
40 grams of fat per day.

Hopefully all of these numbers help you learn how to calculate your macros, and why it is important. Remember, if you focus on hitting your daily macro goals, you will also hit your total daily calorie goal! Train hard, eat smart!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Calories: Bulking and Cutting (Part I)

It can be difficult to determine where to begin when it comes to your calorie needs. Whether you are bulking (adding lean muscle mass) or cutting (dropping body fat), it is important to have a clearly defined starting point. It is important to note that I am strictly talking total calories here; I am not including your macronutrient percentage breakdown, which is equally if not more important. I will talk in depth about that in the next post (part II). Also of equal importance, is that this post applies to people who ARE very active in terms of working out during the week. If you are not getting solid exercise in every week, these numbers mean nothing.

I recommend starting with 15 calories per pound of bodyweight. If you hold as true as possible to this number, you will most likely know within a couple of weeks if any adjustments need to be made. So let us see an example: a 150 pound woman looking to cut (lose body fat) would start with a baseline of 2,250 calories per day (15 x 150 pounds). If see progress with this number, then don't change anything! If you start to plateau, or do not see any results from the go, reduce calories to 14 per pound of bodyweight. This adjustment would drop your total calories to 2,100 per day. Adjustments would be made accordingly, using this method.

Let us use another example: a 130 pound man looking to bulk (add lean muscle). At 15 calories per pound of bodyweight, the total daily calorie intake would be 1,950. Again, if its working, don't change anything. If you are not gaining weight, bump it up to 16 calories per pound of bodyweight, which would put you at 2,080 total daily calories. Make adjustments accordingly.

Don't forget, there ARE variables to these calculations, so you will have to play around to find what works from you. These variable include, but are not limited to: your activity level, the speed of your metabolism, the macronutrient ratio that is right for your body (again, I will discuss next post), etc.

The sure fire way to find the numbers that work for you are to stay as close to the set number every day, consistently! When you do this, you remove the most important negative variable...INconsistency! Train hard, eat smart!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


Stretching is such a vital component to maintaining physical fitness. Especially if you weight train; your muscles get that much shorter and tighter, you build up adhesions and lactic acid, and your range of motion decreases. Maintaining good flexibility throughout the entire body will only help your efforts in the gym.

Stretching when your muscles are cold can also cause injuries and/or strains. I recommend doing a light (5-10 min) cardio warm up followed by light stretching, then another solid stretching session after your weigh training. Train hard, and train smart!

Friday, June 5, 2015


Daily Tip: For everyone diligently following a fitness and/or nutrition plan, I commend you! Don't be afraid to take a day here and there to relax and indulge. It can benefit you in more ways than one! It can give your metabolism a boost (if your body has adapted to your daily nutrition), and it can also give you a mental break (and reset) from the daily rigor of following a stringent plan. Enjoy your weekend! ✌🏻️from Siesta Key 😎🌴

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Hit Those Legs!

Tip of the Day: Ladies... Please squat! And lunge, and leg press, and split squat, and hip thrust, and... you get the point. Don't be treadmill Barbie!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Eat Salmon!

Food of the Day: Salmon! Specifically, pacific wild caught (I prefer sockeye), because these cold water fish are proven to be healthier and more nutrient dense. Salmon is a great source of protein but just as important, an excellent source of healthy, monounsaturated fats and essential fatty acids DHA and EPA. Fun fact: the picture below is of spawning sockeye. An adult sockeye that is not spawning looks completely different!