Monday, March 31, 2008

More on Interval Training for Fat Loss

"The name of the Lord is a strong fortress; the godly run to him and are safe." - Proverbs 18:10

Here's a good article in the Los Angeles Times about interval training for fat loss. You can read the article HERE.

Remember that interval training can be performed using a variety of methods including sprinting, weight training, bodyweight circuits, complexes, Tabata's and hybrid circuits and through the use of many "cardio" machines such as the elliptical, bike, stairmaster, etc.

Interval training is one of the best methods for fat loss. Is it easy? No. Is it simple? Yes.

Simple, hard work will get you to your goals. Are you willing to push yourself through the discomfort to experience the rewards?

At Christian Athlete Fitness Training, we utilize training programs that include a variety of interval training methods (metabolic conditioning) to assist with fat loss and also increase fitness levels and provide overall cardiovascular benefits.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Nutrition Tips, Aerobic Exercise and High Intensity Interval Training for Fat Loss!

"But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint." - Isaiah 40:31

Many people that begin exercising and learning how to eat properly suffer from "paralysis by analysis." Rather than seeing the big picture, they tend to focus narrowly on a few things thus causing them to eat restrictive meals either through a lack of variety with food sources or by not eating enough.

As mentioned in previous blogs, there are a few key principles that everyone should follow. Here's a quick summary:

1) Eat protein with every meal (lean meats, eggs, cottage cheese, protein powder, etc.)
2) Eat vegetables and/or fruit with every meal - think fiber!
3) Eat 4-6 meals per day (approximately every 2-3 hours apart)
4) Eat healthy fats with your meals throughout the day (avocados, fish oil caps, raw nuts and seeds, natural peanut butter, olive oil, etc.)

Overall, this allows someone to choose from a huge variety of foods and combine them in different ways for variety. You can also use various spices and cooking methods to make your meals taste good. However, many women (and men) forget about all the different foods to choose from and find themselves eating the same 7-10 foods all the time. This will quickly lead to burnout from lack of variety and may also cause someone to resort to eating the things they are trying to avoid in the first place (fast food, processed foods, sugary foods, etc.).

Also, don't starve yourself - eating too little can be just as bad as eating too much. If you don't eat enough, your body goes into starvation mode and fat loss will come to a halt and you could lose muscle instead of fat (or even gain fat). So listen to your body. If you eat a meal and you're still hungry 1-2 hours later, eat more next time. Portion sizes should be approximately equal to the size of your fist. Eat a fistful of meat. A fistful of starches (during breakfast and post-workout meals only), but eat two fist fulls of veggies at most of your meals.

Healthy fats and protein will keep you full longer and help with fat burning. Be sure to choose natural, healthy foods (nothing processed or packaged).

As for aerobic exercise, many women (and men) fall into the trap of performing endless amounts of steady-state exercise (jogging, biking, etc.) in hopes of reaching their fat loss goals. Don't fall into the cardio mindset and think, "Well, if 20-30 minutes of running is good, maybe I should try 45-60 minutes!" That's the kind of thinking that will also halt your progress. Remember, INTENSITY is the key to your fat loss and fitness goals and research backs this up (see studies below).

Sure, you can spend an hour or more running or performing other aerobic exercises (Spinning, biking, Elliptical, Stairmaster, aerobic classes, etc.). But what if I told you that I can give you something to do in 10-20 minutes that will be more beneficial for your fat loss and fitness goals?

It's all about interval training (high intensity alternated with lower intensity). Here are a few good studies on high intensity interval training and steady-state endurance training (Special thanks to Alwyn Cosgrove for posting this information):

1) Tremblay A, Simoneau JA, Bouchard C.
Impact of exercise intensity on body fatness and skeletal muscle metabolism.
Metabolism. 1994 Jul; 43(7):814-8.

The premise of the study was to compare twenty (20) weeks of steady-state endurance training and fifteen (15) weeks of interval training.

When comparing total calories burned from exercise, the researchers found the endurance training burned 28,661 calories, while the interval training group burned 13,614 calories. In other words, the interval-training group burned less than half the calories of the endurance-training group.

However, when the researchers adjusted the results to correct for the difference in energy cost, the interval-training group showed a 900% greater loss in subcutaneous fat than the endurance group. In other words, calorie for calorie, interval training was nine times more effective than steady state exercise for fat loss.

Additionally, the researchers noted the metabolic adaptations taking place in the skeletal muscle in response to the interval training program appear to favor the process of fat oxidation.

For more information about this study, please read this article by Alwyn Cosgrove - "The ah-ha! Moment".

2) Trapp EG, Chisholm DJ, Freund J, Boutcher SH.
The effects of high-intensity intermittent exercise training on fat loss and fasting insulin levels of young women.
Int J Obes (Lond). 2008 Jan 15; [E-pub ahead of print]

This study compared high intensity interval training (H.I.I.T.) to steady-state aerobic exercise for a 15-week time period.

For the interval protocol, each subject performed 8 seconds of sprinting and 12 seconds recovery for a maximum of 60 repeats in a session (20 minutes). Subjects actually started with as little as 5 minutes in the beginning phase and gradually increased work time to a maximum of 20 minutes (by the 6-week point).

The steady-state group performed 40 minutes of aerobic work at 60% VO2 max.

There was no difference in total energy expenditure (calories burned) during the exercise period between the two groups over the 15-week period, nor was there any difference in diet. At the end of the study both groups had improved their cardiovascular fitness (the interval training group by 23.8% and the steady-state group by 19.3%), however, the steady-state group saw no loss in body fat (on average - the group gained 1lb), while the interval group had a significant reduction in total body mass, fat mass (11.2%), trunk fat and fasting plasma insulin levels.

Interestingly, the interval group decreased central abdominal fat by 9.5%, in contrast to the steady-state group, which had a 10.5% increase. Also, the interval training group showed an increase in lean mass over the course of the study while the steady-state group lost lean mass.

Once again, in a head-to-head comparison, interval training is superior as a fat loss tool over aerobic training.

This doesn't mean you should quit running or performing other aerobic exercises. I want people to still perform some of these things as a form of active rest and recovery or just to get some additional cardiovascular benefits and to burn a few extra calories. But I don't want it to be a large part of their training unless they are an endurance athlete. Someone who is competing in a marathon or triathalon will still need to run, bike or swim for distance and time as it is specific to their sport. But we'll save that for another blog!

For now, focus more of your fat loss around interval training and strength/weight training exercises.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Working Girls!

*UPDATE* - I was training two 25-year-old women. Unfortunately, they have both dropped out for various reasons. I've edited the info in the blog below.

They were training with me twice a week using full-body exercises for strength, explosive strength and metabolic conditioning.

On the days they were not training with me, I asked them to perform some sort of activity that they enjoyed for about 20-30 minutes to help facilitate recovery from our full-body sessions and to also help burn some extra calories and get some additional cardiovascular benefits. This included jogging, biking, fast walking, basketball or any other sport or activity they enjoyed at a moderate pace.

The schedule looked like this:

Monday - Full-body Session with Nate focusing on strength, explosive strength and metabolic conditioning
Tuesday - Active rest (bike, jog, swim, etc. for 20-30 minutes)
Wednesday - Active rest (or if our schedules allow - Metabolic Conditioning)
Thursday - Full-body Session with Nate focusing on strength, explosive strength and metabolic conditioning
Friday - Active rest (bike, jog, swim, etc. for 20-30 minutes)
Saturday - Active rest (or if our schedules allow - Metabolic Conditioning)
Sunday - OFF

Although they had limited weightlifting experience (and Lola had never used free weights - only machines), they progressed very quickly. They only had 5-6 sessions with me. This means, that in only 4-5 sessions over three weeks, they improved their strength, balance, coordination, form and fluidness of movement.

I told them from the very beginning that the workouts would be simple, but hard. I let them know that we focused on athletic movements and full-body, compound, multi-joint exercises such as front squats, bench presses, barbell rows, Romanian deadlifts, dumbbell overhead presses and assisted chin-ups. In addition, we trained explosive strength and metabolic conditioning through the use of box jumps, squat jumps, burpees, medicine ball woodchoppers and a few other exercises. We also used bodyweight exercises for metabolic conditioning, strength endurance and strength.

I was amazed at how quickly they progressed in just 5-6 workouts. Everything seemed to click. As their bodies adapted to the exercises, they were able to add weight or increase their reps each workout. They also reinforced proper form with each rep and learned how to move quickly and efficiently from one exercise to the next while pushing themselves when their legs began to burn.

I expected Becky and Lola to make fantastic progress during the next several weeks. Unforunately, they both dropped out and will tackle their training and nutrition on their own and hopefully by continuing to follow this blog.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Choosing the Right Exercises

"Do I have the strength of a stone? Is my body made of bronze?"
- Job 6:12

To get the most out of your training, focus on compound, multi-joint exercises. Compound, multi-joint exercises use movements across two or more joints. These multi-joint exercises not only better imitate our natural movements but also work more muscles in the process.

All of the muscles and joints in our body are linked, so movement in one area will in some way affect the rest of our body. This is called the Kinetic Chain. As with any chain, it is only as strong as its weakest link, so by isolating one muscle you are making one link stronger than the rest of the chain. This will cause an imbalance and, therefore, dysfunction (which could present itself as pain).

In order to create optimal function, you need to ensure that all the links are as strong as each other. This will mean your body is in balance and functioning at its best. These compound, multi-joint movements will not only carry over more readily into everyday movements, but will also save you valuable gym time by working many muscles at the same time.

The use of single-joint, single muscle exercises is time consuming and usually calls for gym routines to be split into training a particular muscle group one day, and another the next and so on. By focusing on compound, multi-joint exercises, you can train more of your muscles in each training session with more frequency. These compound exercises are also proven to produce more strength gains than isolation exercises and burn more energy leading to better fat loss and increased muscle mass.

At Christian Athlete Fitness Training, we utilize training programs that focus on a variety of compound, multi-joint exercises such as:

Squats and their variations (front squats, back squats, overhead squats, etc.)
Deadlifts and their variations (Romanian deadlifts, goodmornings, etc.)
Bench presses and their variations (barbell and dumbbell flat or incline presses)
Chin-ups and Pull-ups and their variations (using a variety of grips and additional weight)
Rowing exercises and their variations (barbell rows, seated rows, dumbbell rows, body rows, etc.)
Overhead pressing exercises and their variations (barbell presses, dumbbell presses, etc.)
Explosive exercises and their variations (cleans, snatches, jerks, jump squats, lunge jumps, etc.)

We also utilize a variety of methods to accomplish our goals. We are not restricted to using only barbells and dumbbells. We also use odd objects in our training such as sandbags, kettlebells, sleds, car pushing, bodyweight exercises, bands, medicine balls, ropes and more!

Although the same basic movement patterns and exercises are used throughout all of our training sessions, we change implements in order to add variety and to make the workouts harder depending on our purpose.

Be sure to use compound, multi-joint exercises in your training, and you will get more bang for the buck.

According to the Pareto Principle, 80% of your results come from 20% of what you do. If you focus on using compound, multi-joint exercises for the majority of your training, you will achieve 80% of your muscle mass, fat loss, strength and other goals. The other 20% will come from the "special" exercises or other factors needed to get you to the 100%.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Focus on Movement Patterns in Your Training

"He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love."
- Ephesians 4:16

The muscles of the body work together to perform various movements. Whether you bend down to pick something up or reach up to grab something or put something over your head, many muscles throughout the body are working to make those activities possible.

At no point is one muscle isolated to perform any of those activities. When training the body, it's almost impossible to truly isolate each muscle (although many bodybuilders will tell you otherwise).

For example, when bench pressing, the muscles involved include the chest, triceps, shoulders, lats, abdominals and even the legs (to support the body). The same is true when squatting or performing any other exercise such as a biceps curl.

Many trainers and bodybuilders will tell you that a biceps curl works the biceps. However, the supporting muscles of the shoulders, lats and abdominals are also involved to a certain degree. So although a biceps curl works the biceps, it's impossible to isolate that one muscle.

Since the body works together to perform various tasks, activities and exercises, it should be trained in a similar way. By focusing on movement patterns, you help strengthen the muscles in the body that will help you accomplish the various activities mentioned above.

Below is a list of the most common movement patterns typically used (these are terms popularized by Ian King, an Australian strength coach):

1) Horizontal Pushing (various forms of bench pressing exercises, pushups, etc.)
2) Horizontal Pulling (various forms of rowing exercises, face pulls, etc.)
3) Vertical Pushing (various forms of overhead pressing exercises, handstand pushups, etc.)
4) Vertical Pulling (various forms of chins/pull-ups and lat pulldown exercises)
5) Quad-dominant (various forms of squatting exercises, step-ups, lunges, etc.)
6) Hip-dominant (various forms of deadlifting exercises, goodmornings, etc.)

Although the above terms were popularized by Ian King, these basic movements were defined several decades ago. According to Motor Learning and Performance, 3rd Edition, Richard A. Schmidt defined the six basic human movements as: squat, bend (deadlift), lunge, push, pull and twist. A seventh could be added as running (according to Alwyn Cosgrove in The New Rules of Lifting). Again, the basic premise is that these are basic movement patterns that the body performs and is the reason why these movement patterns should be followed in training.

Traditionally, bodybuilders train muscles not movements. They typically divide their weekly training sessions into "body part splits" such as chest and triceps, back and biceps or legs and abs or one of many other types of body part combinations. For a bodybuilder, this makes sense. Their goal is to develop as much muscle mass as possible in each area of the body. Athletic ability and daily functionality are not very important to the bodybuilder. In essence, they are "athletic mannequins" and only interested in being aesthetically pleasing regardless of function.

Bodybuilders also use a very high volume of training and have the time to train up to 6-7 times per week and even multiple times per day (not to mention that many are using anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs). This means that the training methods of bodybuilders doesn't apply to the average person with a full-time job, family obligations, other commitments, etc.

Unfortunately, this type of training is what most of the general population follows. This is a result of the various bodybuilding and fitness magazines and their misinformation in promoting "body part" training. This type of training has become very popular and most people think they must follow this type of routine in order to get results.

However, more people would get better results in their training if they stopped thinking about exercising certain muscles and instead focused on movement patterns. Ideally, you would have an equal amount of pulling exercises as pushing exercises and an equal amount of quad-dominant exercises as hip-dominant exercises. This will help to keep the body balanced and help with muscle and strength gains over time while helping to prevent injuries due to muscular imbalances.

For example, many people experience shoulder pain from bench pressing. Not only could it be the result of poor technique, but most often, it is a result of performing many more horizontal pushing movements than pulling movements.

We've all been to the gym on Monday evening. If you look around, it appears to be the universal day to train the chest. Almost every bench is occupied and people are pressing for many sets. Yet, you hardly see anyone give that much attention to rowing exercises and even chin-ups and pull-ups!

By focusing on movement patterns, you will also help keep your muscles functioning the way they are meant to be used. Most athletes focus on movement patterns not muscles. At the same time, many athletes develop fantastic physiques as a result of their training. They focus on athletic movements while developing strength, speed, conditioning, endurance and more.

As Dan John (a strength coach in Utah) has said many times: "The Body is One Piece!"

At Christian Athlete Fitness Training, we utilize training programs that use movement patterns and full-body or upper/lower body splits each training session. This gives the most bang for the buck and carries over to the athletic field and life's daily functions better. This doesn't mean we don't perform "isolation" movements such as biceps curls. We will use some of those movements in our training, but they do not make up a large percentage of what we do. The majority of the exercises we use are focused on compound, multi-joint movements such as squats, bench presses, rows, deadlifts, overhead presses, chin-ups, dips, power cleans and more.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Power Foods - Part 2

"So go ahead. Eat your food with joy, and drink your wine with a happy heart, for God approves of this!" - Ecclesiastes 9:7

As a continuation of yesterday's discussion of "Power Foods," I wanted to give links to a few articles on various power foods you should have in your daily diet as well as some recipes using those foods.

Power Foods: The Magic 13

Another Power Food

Nutrition Quest - Cool Food Facts


Cooking the Power Foods - Part 1

Cooking the Power Foods - Part 2

Read these articles, learn a few things and start putting this information to practice.


Monday, March 17, 2008

Power Foods!

"So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God." - Ecclesiastes 2:24

According to the Abs Diet by David Zinczenko, there are 12 "Power Foods" that everyone should eat because they fulfill your core nutritional needs and help you build a lean body while losing fat. These foods include:

Almonds and other raw nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, etc.)
Beans and legumes
Spinach and other green vegetables

Dairy (raw milk, organic cottage cheese, yogurt and cheese)
Instant oatmeal (I recommend real oatmeal that is unsweetened)
Eggs (eat the whole egg!!!)
Turkey and other lean meats

Peanut butter (ingredients should be: peanuts and salt)
Olive oil
Whole-grain breads (buy breads without high-fructose corn syrup like Nature's Own)
Extra protein powder (whey and casein mix: low-carb Metabolic Drive)
Raspberries and other berries

In addition to eating the above foods through various combinations (giving you hundreds of food options), the Abs Diet recommends eating 4-6 meals per day, drinking smoothies (for convenience), no longer counting calories (causes you to lose focus and motivation), drinking plenty of water and having one cheat meal per week.

For the most part, I agree with the food choices and recommendations. However, I would suggest a few small changes (some of which I already noted above).

Rather than eating any type of peanut butter, I would highly recommend only eating all-natural peanut butter. The ingredients listed should be: Peanuts and salt. If your peanut butter has hydrogenated oils, sugar and other additives (even some of the new "healthier" peanut butter mixes they are trying to sell), get rid of them and find some all-natural peanut butter.

The oils and sugar in most peanut butters are bad for you. They add evil things to your diet like trans fats, sugar and even high-fructose corn syrup. Some of the newer "healthier" versions of peanut butter contain flax seed, egg whites and other ingredients. These are not any better!

Whenever there are extremes in life, the middle is usually the place to be. This is important to remember when it comes to training and nutrition. It's easy to be swayed one way or the other, but the middle ground is usually where the truth is found.

Stick with all-natural peanut butter. I prefer the Publix old-fashioned peanut butter. It is affordable and contains only peanuts and salt. Sure, you have to spend some time mixing it up when you first open it, but all that oil is good for you! So don't discard it. Just be sure to mix well when first opening and then place your peanut butter in the refrigerator to keep it from separating again.

If you're not used to eating real peanut butter, then it may take a few weeks to adjust to the taste (since it's no longer loaded with sugar). However, after a few weeks, you will love the taste of real peanut butter and never go back to the fake stuff.

Just be careful of your portion sizes, as peanut butter (and other nuts) are calorically dense. This means that a small serving packs a healthy punch of calories and healthy fats. If you stick with a serving size (two tablespoons = 200 calories), you'll be just fine and also notice that it helps keep you fuller longer.

Although the Abs Diet recommends no-fat dairy products, I try to shy away from no-fat products and instead opt for whole fat versions depending on the food. The reason I recommend this is because the fat in dairy products is actually important for the absorption of the protein and nutrients.

A recent study found that non-fat and even low-fat milk reacted differently than whole milk when it came to absorption. The fat in milk is needed in order to allow the body to absorb and use protein and Vitamin D. This is why many of the "non-fat" foods available are not always the best choice. Remember what I said in two earlier blogs? The body needs FAT!

Choose the most natural food when shopping. Although I'm not a huge proponent of commercialized store-bought milk due to its lack of nutrients, sugar content and how it affects the insulin levels (possibly leading to fat gain), I know that others may enjoy milk and not want to give it up. That's okay, you don't have to give it up, but I would recommend that you limit consumption to 1-2 8oz glasses each day and try to purchase only organic or raw milk.

As for cheese and yogurt, try to stick with the whole-fat versions even if some of the recent research says low-fat options have not been shown to have the same issue as milk when discussing absorption of protein, vitamins and other nutrients. However, I don't recommend non-fat cheeses. Stick with low-fat (and regular) cheese and yogurt.

The other recommendation I would make regarding the "Power Foods" is to choose a whey and casein protein mix for your supplement. Whey tends to digest quickly and will not help keep you full. It is more useful in the morning (after "fasting" all night) or immediately post-workout (when you want to digest protein and carbs quickly).

However, for most people who supplement with a protein powder, a mix of whey and casein will give you the best of both worlds. One protein will digest quickly while the other (casein) digests more slowly, helping you to continue to feel full and satisfied while also supplying a steady stream of amino acids to your body and muscles. A brand I recommend and use is Low-Carb Metabolic Drive by Biotest. The taste, quality and price makes it well worth adding to your daily eating plan.

Overall, I agree with the recommendations of the Abs Diet as it is based on eating whole, nutritious foods that everyone should be eating regardless of whether they are trying to gain muscle or lose fat. These foods are natural, not man-made or processed. That's the key to making healthy nutritional changes. Always choose the whole, fresh, natural food over something in a box, bag or from a fast-food restuarant or other highly-processed source.

How many of the foods above do you currently eat? Find ways to include them in your daily and weekly meals. Be sure to eat a variety of different foods listed under each category and don't forget to include protein with each meal from varied sources (lean meats, eggs, protein powders, cottage cheese, etc.).

For more information about the Abs Diet (for women), read this article at Men's Health.

Thanks to Becky for providing the link and for finding the Nature's Own bread.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Strength & Conditioning Attributes and Benchmarks

"God arms me with strength,and he makes my way perfect."
- Psalm 18:32

At Christian Athlete Fitness Training's private garage gym, I work to develop four primary physical attributes in my training:

1) Raw Strength
2) Metabolic Conditioning (Sprint/Interval Cardio)
3) Muscle Endurance
4) Explosive Power

When I utilize a training program, I like to hit each of these throughout the week by combining two or more attributes in a single workout through the use of supersets, hybrids and complexes. This may sound scientific, but it really isn't.

Mostly it's common sense. The majority of the people I train workout 2-3 times per week, and at a minimum, I work to ensure that each person gets at least two strength workouts per week combined with at least one of the other attributes each training session. I believe strength is number one, and the best thing I can do for anyone is to make them stronger. After strength, the other three attributes are important, and they all need to be trained for overall conditioning, fat loss and health.

As far as strength measurements are concerned, here are the strength benchmarks I'd like myself and the more advanced athletes I train to attain (these don't necessarily apply to those who come to me strictly for fat loss or just to get in shape):

Male Basic Strength Standards:
2.0x bodyweight deadlift
1.25 - 1.5x bodyweight bench press and front squat
1x bodyweight standing overhead press and power clean
.75x bodyweight power snatch
12-15x bodyweight strict chin-ups
20x bodyweight strict dips

Female Basic Strength Standards:
1.25 - 1.5x bodyweight deadlift
1x bodyweight bench press and front squat
.60 - .75x bodyweight standing overhead press and power clean
.50 - .65x bodyweight power snatch
5x strict chin-ups
5x strict dips

You'll note that these benchmarks are not assigned absolute poundages. They are based on bodyweight. Mark Twight of Gym Jones points out that there is a difference between absolute strength and relative strength. He argues that relative strength - or how strong you are compared to your bodyweight - is a much more important measure.

From my own experience, I believe the above strength benchmarks are possible without adding a lot of mass (unless that is your goal - mainly through nutritional changes). This is a huge concern for women and those who may compete in sporting events that require weight classes. Personally, I am fairly close to reaching all those benchmarks and more, and weigh just 150 pounds - my natural weight at 5'4". I believe that extra weightroom strength will transfer to better all-around performances in other sporting activities and daily tasks.

I continue to monitor my own performance improvements in certain workouts in addition to increasing strength. My current weight is slightly less than last year, but I've become leaner, stronger and a lot more fit.

The best thing I can do for myself and the people I train is to make them stronger. Strength, especially strong legs, is the basis of everything functional and athletic in nature.

*Special thanks to Rob Shaul of Mountain Athlete for the information he has provided on his web site that has helped me refine my own training ideas and benchmarks.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Lean for Life!

"I know and am convinced on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong." - Romans 14:14

Here are a couple of the most important aspects of nutrition that help to get you lean for life. I picked this up from Craig Ballantyne of Turbulence Training - (CLICK HERE to learn more), and it definitely goes along with what I said in a previous post about nutrition.

1. Get enough quality protein in the daily diet. Protein has a higher thermic effect than carbs and fat (so you burn more calories digesting it), but it also creates satiety so your hunger is satisfied longer. Protein is also a building block for maintaining and building lean muscle. And remember that the amount of lean muscle you carry is one of the main factors for controlling your metabolism.

2. Think fiber! When it comes to carbs, make sure that almost all of your carbohydrate intake is from higher fiber sources like vegetables, fruits and high-fiber unrefined grains. Try to avoid refined sugars and refined grains as that is one of the main reasons so many people struggle with body fat. I don't eat many grains, as I prefer to get most of my carbs from veggies and fruits. Fiber helps fill you up and also slows down the glycemic response of the foods you eat, all beneficial for getting lean.

3. Don't be afraid to eat fat! I've said this before, and I'm saying it again. Many people try to go way too low on their fat intake and this can negatively affect hormone levels in your body as well as cause more cravings. Try to eat enough healthy fats daily. Good sources of healthy fats are raw nuts and seeds, nut butters, avocados, olive oil, organic meats and eggs, fish oil caps, coconuts and virgin coconut oil. On that note, saturated fats from tropical oils are VERY misunderstood, even by many nutritionists and other health professionals. Yes they are composed highly of saturated fats but they are actually beneficial.

4. Avoid the two worst things in our food supply at ALL COSTS:

*Artificial trans fats from margarines, shortening and hydrogenated oils that are in most processed foods

*High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) which is in almost all sweetened products on the market.

Again, if you avoid processed foods, it becomes easy to avoid these two worst offenders in our food supply.

I believe that once you get a handle on these four main points of your diet detailed above, the rest starts to take care of itself as you gain control over your appetite, blood sugar levels, hormone levels, etc. It all falls into place, and you eventually gain total control over how lean you want to get.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Soda, Coffee Drinks, Cheese, Yogurt, High-Fructose Corn Syrup and More!

“You must serve only the Lord your God. If you do, He will bless you with food and water, and He will protect you from illness. - Exodus 23:25

Whenever someone asks about nutrition and training, the first thing I recommend that they do is to make small changes to their daily eating habits. It's not uncommon to see someone lose up to 10lbs in one week just from eliminating soda and other calorie-containing drinks.

Other calorie-containing drinks that I see people frequently consuming include fruit juices (even all-natural juices), sweetened tea, milk, Gatorade and other sports drinks and coffee drinks from Starbucks and other vendors. These drinks tend to be loaded with sugar and fat (even trans fats - something you want to avoid at all costs) and tons of calories. These are health and diet destroyers and will leave you wondering what went wrong when you don't notice any differences in the mirror or with how your clothes fit.

If you are beginning to take steps to get your nutrition, health and fitness on track, I highly recommend that you begin cutting out all soft drinks (even diet) and the coffee drinks (yes, all of them!).

So what should you drink? Water. Yes, get used to drinking water. If you have problems drinking water because there isn't enough taste, try adding a little lemon to your water. Also, cold water tends to be better than warm water or room-temperature water.

If that still doesn't do the trick, I'm okay with using Crystal Light in small quantities. The other thing you should drink more of is green tea. There have been many health benefits reported from those who drink green tea. It doesn't have to be a special brand. From what I've read, Lipton Green Tea is a great brand and good quality. If you need to sweeten it up, I recommend using Splenda or Xylitol.

What about cheese? As for cheese, you should eat it. However, let me tell you that cheese can be high in fat and calorically dense. Even though most of the fat is good fat, it still packs quite a punch. So my suggestion is to be careful of your portion sizes. Typically one ounce is a serving. That's not a huge amount, so you just have to be mindful of that. Avoid non-fat and reduced-fat cheeses and stick with real cheese (low-fat and non-fat cheeses do not absorb nutrients as well because the body needs fat for proper digestion and absorption).

Yogurt is good for you, and I highly recommend that you eat it for the wonderful live cultures it contains. It helps with digestion and has many beneficial bacteria. As for the type and brand, try to avoid all the sugar-filled ones such as "fruit on the bottom." They are packed with a ton of calories and sugar.

Organic and Greek yogurts are best. Try to find a brand that contains less than 20 grams of carbs from sugars. And be sure to avoid any products that contain the most evil sugar substitute in the world: High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS).

That is something you should look for in the foods you buy - HFCS. If it's in the ingredient list, don't buy it. For some products, it's hard to avoid unless you buy things from whole food stores and natural food places (this applies to bread - as almost all store-bought bread has HFCS).

Locally, you can go to Ward's or Mother Earth and get freshly made, natural bread that only has a few ingredients and uses molasses and brown sugar as the sweetener. That is much healthier than high fructose corn syrup. Remember to try and save the bread for breakfast and post-workout when your body can better utilize the carbohydrates rather than storing them as fat.

HFCS has been linked to diabetes and obesity. It is in millions of products and people consume tons of it on a daily basis and don't understand why they are getting fat or having health problems.

Start reading labels when you buy things. The first three or four ingredients are typically the majority of what the item contains. Also, don't forget to look at serving sizes. Many people buy a 20oz Coke or Gatorade and drink the whole thing. If you look at the label, that's typically 2.5 servings so that 150-calorie soda just turned into 375 calories for a 20oz drink. Just imagine the people drinking soda from fast food joints. They are typically 32 ounces and 600 calories!

Diet sodas are not any better even though they contain 0 calories and 0 carbs because there are other ingredients in diet sodas that are bad for you (the enamel on your teeth) and they tend to cause people to gain weight because of the way the sweeteners are structured (chemically altered). So you may think a 0-calorie drink is an okay substitute, but it could cause weight gain nevertheless.

Remember to make small changes each day. Over time, they add up to big changes in the mirror and the way you feel.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Nutrition Tips To Get Things Started!

"Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen to me, and you will eat what is good. You will enjoy the finest food." - Isaiah 55:2

Your first and most important step to increasing your metabolism so you can burn fat and get a leaner, healthier and more attractive body is to begin eating better. Follow these guidelines starting today. No excuses. Make the time to do it.

1. The most important key to success is to surround yourself with people who will support you and your goals. A strong support system is crucial to your overall success.

2. Always eat breakfast - Ideally, you should choose from the following:

  • Eggs (scrambled with veggies, an omlette, poached or soft boiled)
  • Real oatmeal (not the sugar-filled instant stuff)
  • Cottage cheese (at least 1/2 cup) and fruit
  • Leftovers from dinner as long as it contains protein and veggies (fruit and veggies are your friend. Eat as much of them as you want and with every meal. But you need protein with every meal as well - see number 5).

3. Eliminate ALL calorie-containing drinks such as fruit juice, sweet tea, soda, Gatorade, etc. You should try to only drink water, green tea and in limited amounts - Crystal Light. I suggest also staying away from all diet sodas as well, even if they are 0 calorie/carbs. There are other things in them that you don't want and they will prevent fat loss for a variety of reasons.

4. Eat 4-6 meals per day. Frequent small meals will help speed up your metabolism and keep your blood sugar level throughout the day. The best way to do this is:

  • Breakfast
  • Mid-morning Snack
  • Lunch
  • Afternoon Snack
  • Dinner
  • Evening snack

Men and athletes should aim for the higher end (5-6 meals per day) and women trying to lose fat should stick with four meals per day (breakfast, lunch, dinner and one snack).

The only change to this is during hard training days. On those days, you want to also have a post-workout drink immediately after. This is where a protein shake and some raisins/fruit or a specially-formulated drink (I recommend Surge by Biotest) comes in handy. If you're trying to lose fat, just eat or drink something with protein and skip the extra sugar and carbs from fruit or other sources.

Also, if you become hungry an hour or two after each meal, then you may need to eat more protein at each meal (it helps keep you satisfied longer) and also more healthy fats (avocado, raw nuts, olive oil, natural peanut butter, etc.).

5. Eat protein with every meal - Get protein from all lean meats - organic is best - (beef, chicken, pork, turkey, fish, buffalo, ostrich, etc.), eggs, raw nuts, cottage cheese, yogurt, etc. This is VERY important. Protein helps speed up your metabolism. It helps build muscle. Muscle BURNS fat. So yes, you want to build muscle to burn fat - You will not bulk up unless you eat enough food, train hard for many years and have the testosterone and genetics to be big (if only it were so easy!).

6. Elminate any and all sugary foods or processed foods. If it comes in a box don't eat it! The rare exception to this rule is real oatmeal, quinoa, unprocessed whole grain brown rice, Ezekiel bread and unprocessed whole wheat pasta (all of which should be eaten in small portions). However, you should only eat the "starchy" carbs at two times during the day - breakfast and after your workout (after the post-workout drink).

For the most part, you want to only shop the perimeter of the grocery store. Why? This is where the best stuff is and the healthiest stuff. Think about it. What is on the perimeter? Meat. Fruits/Veggies. Dairy/Eggs. Legumes. The stuff on the aisles is all the bad food (heavily processed, overly salted, filled with additives and other harmful ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup, trans fats, etc.). The only stuff you should buy in the middle aisles of the store would be frozen veggies (very good for you, and also very convenient and don't go bad as quickly as fresh stuff - So yes, all frozen non-saucy veggies and fruits are fine).

7. Go to Sam's Club or Costco and pick up some of their fish oil caps. You want a basic, high-quality fish oil that contains at least 1,000mg of fish oil per cap (gel caps). You should take AT LEAST two of these with every meal. This means you should have 6-8 or more per day. Yes! 6-8! Six should be the minimum - two per meal! Don't worry about what the label says. Three is not enough to get the health benefits.

Fish oil helps speed up your metabolism and has many other health benefits, so you want to include them in your daily diet. Don't worry about the "fat" or small amounts of calories. People who take fish oil reguarly tend to burn an additional 500 calories per day just from that one supplement! Go to Sam's and get them and take them - two per meal, 4-6 meals per day. Also, keep them in your refrigerator for optimal freshness and potency.

8. Stop drinking soda and junk food - Remove all soda and junk food from the house. If you are unwilling to remove the junk in your home, then you will fail. You will fail because if this stuff is in your home, it will be eaten.

Or, it will be there to tempt you. Or, you will have someone who is "toxic" (a term coined by Chris Shugart in his article - It's Sabotoge! - WARNING: This article contains adult language) and ends up trying to foil your attempts - conciously or unconciously - at getting healthier, losing weight and getting in shape.

It happens all the time. One person loses weight and looks great and the significant other is not secure with how they look or is jealous of you - or something like that - so they offer you bad foods, ask you to skip your workout, don't give positive support, etc. Stay away from toxic people. Many times, they are the people closest to you (friends, family, etc.).

9. Drink a lot of water - Our bodies are made up of water and it needs plenty of water to flush toxins from the body and to help keep our organs and other bodily functions working properly. John Berardi, a nutritionist, recommends drinking half your bodyweight in ounces each day at a minimum. If you weigh 150lbs, you should drink 75 ounces of water.

This doesn't include those who have an active job, train hard, live in a hot and humid climate, etc. That is just the minimum recommendation. You will need to consume more than that due to the above-mentioned conditions. Water is your friend. Slowly work on increasing how much you drink each day and you will see and feel the difference.

Never rely on thirst as a reminder to drink water. By the time you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. How do you know you've had enough water? When you pee clearly at least twice per day (not yellow or light yellow), then you are doing well.

10. Don't forget the fat - Your body needs fat for many reasons. Healthy fats are beneficial for normal organ functioning as well as to help you get leaner and healthier. Even saturated fat from lean meats and eggs is beneficial. Be sure to get plenty of healthy fats in your diet from avocados, fish oil caps, raw nuts and seeds, natural peanut butter, olive oil, eggs and lean meats. Your body will thank you.

Now get started!


Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. - 1 Corinthians 10:31

Thank you for stopping by to check out my new blog - Christian Athlete Fitness Training. I am a Christian, and I have had a passion for health and fitness since I was 14. I am interested in being strong, fit, lean and athletic.

I thank God for giving me the opportunity to use my passion in a purposeful and meaningful way to help others. I have been searching for my purpose all my life with no clear idea of what I was created to do, but it has become more and more clear to me just recently. This blog and the posts are not intended to teach you scripture (although I will reference things from the bible if they apply) or suggest that you become a Christian. This is purely a way for me to use my passion and talent to help others. That is one of God's purposes for all of us - to help others.

My goal is to provide a variety of strength, conditioning, fat loss, fitness, nutrition and health tips that cuts through all the nonsense and differing views of all the "internet gurus" who have never lifted a weight or followed the practices they preach. This will be based on my research and, most importantly, real-world experience from the many years I have trained myself and seen what works and what doesn't.

This blog is intended for everyone - Christians and Non-Christians. I hope that you will gain valuable information for your physical (and spiritual) needs through this blog. Although I may quote scripture at times, I will not push "religion" on you or make you feel guilty for not being Christian or any of that other nonsense that we have all experienced. Trust me, it's hard enough for me to stay on the right path (I mess up many times every day), so I will not condemn, judge or belittle you in any way regarding your belief system - However, I'll let it be known that my patience does wear thin from people "not getting it" when it comes to strength, fitness and health. But I will use this blog and my experience training others to become more patient.

I started this blog to give you the information you need to meet your strength, fitness, nutritional and health goals in a simple way. I said simple not easy. Doing these things requires hard work on your part. But you will reap the benefits of what you put in and hopefully live a long and happy life because of it. Feel free to contact me with questions and be sure to sign up to join my blog. Let's get started!