Stop Training Like a Dumb@$$

Most people live fairly sedentary lives. We sit for breakfast, we sit in the car on the way to work, we sit at work, we sit on the way home from work, then we go to the gym and train like a maniac. Jumping, hopping, burpee-ing, kettlebell swinging, and doing tons of other high intensity demanding work…then we leave and sit at home, and go to bed, and repeat.

What is wrong with this picture?

Lots of things.

First off, people just sit way too much. Leading to tight hips, tight backs, tight upper chest muscles, weak glutes, and weak un-conditioned core muscles.

Then, you take this body and try to go totally ballistic at the gym. Do we see where the problems lie?

This point was reiterated on the Renegade Radio podcast episode that I was listening to this week with my friend Dr. John Rusin.

In the podcast, John stated – to paraphrase – “most people live in a seated and sedentary life, and then have this crazy bio-psycho-social approach to training – going all out, and thinking every workout must be all or none. These same people who live in a seated position train balls to the wall until they get hurt or burned out. This turns something positive and beneficial (exercise) into a negative, injurious experience”

This couldn’t be any truer.

Many people think that the sign of a good workout is to feel completely obliterated by the end, and feel like they got hit by a Mack truck for days after the workout.

What most burpees look like…

The Solution

Instead of always thinking that you need to be pushing it to the max and going all out – listen to your body and train smarter, and recover even smarter.

If you sit all day, make sure you are taking time DAILY to mobilize your hips, stretch your hips, stretch your chest, and strengthen your abs and glutes. This doesn’t have to be anything crazy, just a simple little circuit.

When you get to the gym WARM UP! A warmup is NOT walking on the treadmill for 3 minutes, doing some arm circles and then jumping right into your heavy set of bench pressing.

A warmup should consist of three main things that can be accomplished in 5-10 minutes:

  1. Mobilizing tight muscles (dynamic stretching, foam rolling, active mobility drills)
  2. Priming the working muscles for the workout (if you plan on doing bench, prime the pecs, shoulders and upper back with some band work for example)
  3. Getting the heart rate up…you know, the actual WARM part of warming up!

If you are feeling run down or beat up, take it easy at the gym. Focus on high-quality strength training, and don’t think that you need to do the latest burpee challenge or 1000 box jumps.

Lastly, on your off days – don’t spend the whole day laying on the couch. Do some mobility work, and go for a nice walk – even just 30 minutes will do wonders for helping you feel better.

Need a sample recovery day workout? Want to know why I think burpees are the dumbest f****** exercise in the history of ever? Subscribe to the MG FITLIFE insiders and you will find out on Tuesday of next week 😉

Stay healthy my friends,



You CAN Out Train a Bad Diet…Until You Can’t


I’m sure you have heard it before, probably even from me – you can’t out train a bad diet. Meaning, no matter how hard you workout, your excessive exercises cannot negate a poor diet, eating too much, eating like a child all the time or even eating too little over time.

Truth is, you can out-train a bad diet, at first.

Your diet has too many calories in it…

If you go from no exercise to a ton of exercise and don’t change a thing with your diet, you will lose weight initially. It’s calories in, calories out at it’s finest. But then what do you do once you physically cannot add more exercise to your life without missing out on family time, work, sleep, or other more important things?

Aside from running out of time to add in more exercise, there is also the effect of hormonal changes that come with excessive exercise (leptin and ghrelin fluctuations), driving your hunger levels up, and making it easier to eat more than you burn – especially if you are already eating a bunch of calorically dense junk food at will.

If you continue to lean on exercise for fat loss, you also can run into what is known as the constrained theory of energy expenditure – however, it is no longer just theory.

Essentially it has been found that once someone goes over a certain threshold of exercise, their body will actually start decreasing the calories burned from NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis – calories you burn from just moving throughout the day).

The traditional model, the Additive Model, figures that the more exercise one adds to their life, the more total calories will be burned. The latest research has shown the Constrained model to be more realistic – with a breakpoint of diminishing returns.

A little bit of exercise (45-60 min 4 to 7 days per week) can elevate the number of calories you burn each day, a moderate amount likely won’t make a huge difference, and extreme amounts WILL burn more, but this is not likely sustainable.

The best way to see this is to use a step tracker while NOT working out. Most will notice that as they increase working out, their steps actually decrease over time – because the body will naturally begin reducing unnecessary energy expenditure outside of exercise to conserve stores.

The point to take away is not that more exercise is worthless, or “bad” – but rather using more exercise without addressing nutrition is a very steep and frustrating uphill battle.

Your diet has too “LITTLE” calories in it…

Hang with me on this one. There are several instances when I have seen this happen.

Example: Someone believes that they are following a super restrictive diet, only eating 1200 calories, but not losing weight! After a closer look we find:

  1. They follow this strict diet 5-6 days per week, then go hog wild because they are over restricted and end up eating 2000-3000 or even 4000 calories on one day in the week, putting their weekly average into a caloric surplus.
  2. They are forgetting to track everything, even the little bites add up!
  3. They are using inaccurate measurements of their food, and actually eating much more than they believe.
  4. They are not counting liquid calories (yes, I’ve even had people not track milk because they thought that liquid calories didn’t count…)
  5. They have been under years of restriction, leading to a slowed metabolic rate, or a dysfunctional thyroid (this is MUCH less common than people think, but it happens)

99% of the time, when it comes to not losing weight because of eating too little, it usually is from more of a user error than an actually slowed metabolic rate.

Even if your goal is weight loss, and you are physically active – you need to make sure you are still eating enough to fuel your workouts, keep your metabolic rate fired up, and most importantly fuel your muscles for recovery.

When you undereat and over exercise, you eventually hit a wall, burn out, get sick, get injured, get overtrained and un-motivated. So even if you are looking to lose weight, your intake should actually increase with your increase in activity – and as long as you create a slight deficit, you will still lose fat at an appropriate rate, and feel much better than most people who are over-restricting.

Need help with eating enough for your goals and having someone hold you to it? Sign up for the…

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You Don’t Lack Discipline, Motivation or Willpower

You lack direction and accountabilty.

It is a very common discussion that I have at least once per week. “I wish I had the discipline/motivation/willpower to do ______”. I get where these people are coming from, and they are not technically wrong that having more of these “things” would be beneficial – however, they are focussed on the wrong “things”.


Saying that you need to find more discipline often times means that you lack a self-driven purpose. You lack a driving force to be disciplined for, you just continue on your ways thinking that maybe tomorrow will be different. Or maybe you are truly content with your current condition, and that’s fine – as long as you are truly okay with it.

I love to use monetary analogies. Having fiscal discipline is important for saving money for a large goal. To buy a house, save for a big vacation, or to pay off debt. Ironically enough, there have been studies showing that people who are over-indebted have a 100% greater chance of being overweight or obese.

Now, these are just correlations, and it is a chicken vs. the egg scenario – because when one is short on money, it CAN be (but not definitely) cheaper to buy unhealthy foods. But what this also can show is that discipline transcends throughout multiple aspects of life.

If you can have the discipline to save for retirement, a house, a vacation – then no, you don’t need the discipline to do things to improve your health, you need a purposeSIGN UP BELOW!


Motivation does NOT translate into compliance. Intentions and setting up your environment for success does. In the British Journal of Health Psychology; a study showed that intention bests motivation when it comes to exercise follow-through.

Control group: 38% exercised at least 1x/week
Motivation Group: 35% exercised at least 1x/week.
Intention group: 91% exercised at least 1x/week.

The intention group was told to create a plan for when and where they would exercise over the following week. Specifically, each person in Group 3 was told to state their intention to exercise by completing the following statement…

During the next week, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on [DAY] at [TIME OF DAY] at/in [PLACE]. 

The same strategic approach can be used for nutrition and dietary modifications. During the week I will eat vegetables at 2 meals per day – for example.

Instead of saying you need motivation – create intention. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-Constrained (SMART) goals work best. SIGN UP BELOW!


Willpower is finite – it can and will run out if you try to depend on it. Sure, you can use willpower to resist reaching into the cookie jar in the kitchen, but eventually, you will give in and eat them. (Protip – keep them out of sight, or completely out of the house!)

Studies have shown that willpower will eventually run out if you continue to resist something that is constantly forced into your environment. However, more recent studies have shown that this is only true if you believe it to be true. Huh?

Belief drives behavior.

Believing in success and yourself will help you more than sitting around and belittling yourself and continuing to beat yourself up. If you consistently are bombarded with negative self-talk – or worse, negative talk from those around you, you will subconsciously behave like like you believe you are.

Instead of continuing to think “I am fat” or “I have no willpower” – and if other people are telling you that, well then you need to find other people to hang out with… shift your beliefs in yourself. This is not to say that you should live in denial, but thoughts like “I am working at being more healthy” or “I am a strong-willed person” will slowly build and create a more powerful subconscious.

If you believe that you have poor willpower – you will have poor willpower. If you believe you have no discipline – then you won’t have discipline. If you believe that you have no motivation, then you won’t have motivation.

If you have a plan, set yourself up for success, layout specific intentions, and start taking action – you will “magically” have better willpower, better discipline and better motivation – and thus – better results!

Need help with creating a plan of action and having someone hold you to it? Sign up for the…

Jump Start into Summer Challenge! (open to 10 PEOPLE, ANYONE, ANYWHERE). 

Fill out the quick form and I will put you on the early registration list:

Thanks and I will be in touch shortly!


What’s Wrong With Body Transformation Challenges(?)


Many gym owners and trainers like to run short-term challenges under the title of “X” Week Transformation Challenge.

And many trainers or fitness experts like to rip on them because “how can you really transform your body in X weeks?” or because maybe some questionable weight loss tactics are pushed to get crazy results.

Here’s a different take: I think transformation challenges are great, HOWEVER, the approach must be correct and the mindset of the person signing up for them is the true area of concern.

What makes transformation challenges great:

They give someone a short-term goal to focus on, they can boost motivation, create greater accountability, and increase morale while done in a group or with friends. While you likely won’t totally transform your life in X weeks, you can get a great start and get the ball rolling on creating some awesome habits for a lifetime.

What makes transformation challenges not so great:

Depending on the tactics used or results promised, I’ve seen claims of 20 pounds in 6 weeks, or other super rapid weight loss promises. Truth is – this is possible. However, these results rarely last more than 1 year, and studies even have shown that 90% of people who lose weight at a rate faster than 1 pound/week on average gain it all back and then some within 5 years.

The BIGGEST Issue with Transformation Challenges…

It’s not the challenge, Transformation Challenges are AWESOME! It’s not the promises of life-changing results…it is the mindset of the individual going into the challenge thinking that this short period will truly transform their lives.

Could it lead to life-changing results? Of course! You could sign up, learn about your nutrition, exercise habits and fall in love with the process and jump-start a lifetime of healthy habits.

However; going into the challenge thinking that you can sign up for a few weeks, hit it hard, and then have your problems solved is a dangerous mindset to be in.

Having this sort of quick fix mindset will only leave you starving, grumpy (hangry), and disappointed when your challenge is over.

It is on the participant to realize that there is more to getting long-term results than a short window that is only a couple of weeks long.

This is why I prefer calling them ” X Week Jumpstart Programs/Challenges”. Right away it is implied that this is only the beginning of a process, not a life-changing event with a start and finish, and shifts the mindset to a more long-term view.

Short-term challenges are great – if you view them as part of a bigger goal. Health doesn’t have a start and end date. It is an ongoing process that needs to be committed to for life, whether or not you are doing a challenge. Use challenges to jump-start the process, but when the challenge is over, keep working towards your long-term goal – and keep chipping away at it day after day.

So if you have fallen off the wagon, are lacking motivation, or have never started and have no clue where to start – let’s get the ball rolling, and start creating those habits that will last you a lifetime. I won’t promise insane results in 8 weeks, but I will promise that you will learn a lot about nutrition, your body, and exercise – and if you take the jumpstart seriously and work at it, you will be in a much better place than you were at the start of the challenge…

With all that being said…

Stay tuned for an important announcement about my first ever “Jump Start into Summer Challenge” – Coming SOON! (open to 10 PEOPLE, ANYONE, ANYWHERE). 

If you are already interested – fill out the quick form and I will put you on the early registration list:

Thanks and I will be in touch shortly!

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Stay healthy my friends,

Protein 101 – What, Why, And How Much?

Protein; what every gym rat likes to talk about. The truth is, protein is very important for everyone looking to maximize his or her health. To keep it simple, protein is made up of the building blocks of tissue – amino acids. In addition to muscle, protein also makes up hair, skin, nails, hormones, and enzymes.

Besides being important for rebuilding muscle, protein has a few other pretty important attributes;

Protein helps with satiety, or fullness, and will help control overall intake and hunger pangs.

Also, 20-35% of calories from protein are burned through digestion or the Thermic Effect Of Food (vs. 5-15% from carbs, and 0-5% from fat) – so eating a higher protein diet keeps your metabolism revved up. Have you ever gotten the meat sweats after eating a ton of meat? It’s a real thing…

High protein foods are pretty much anything that comes from the flesh of animals, or anything produced by an animal that is edible (milk, eggs, and dairy based protein powders). High protein, non-animal sources include tofu and beans – which also are a moderate protein source at best and also a significant carbohydrate source.

Protein is probably the most under consumed macronutrient in the average diet. For a healthy individual looking to maximize performance (performance not necessarily meaning athletic performance, but overall performance through out day to day tasks) , health and overall strength, I always recommend eating 1 gram per pound of bodyweight. (200 lb. healthy male = 200g of protein per day).

Where this recommendation changes a bit is in overweight or obese individuals. If looking to lose body fat, a caloric deficit is still crucial, and if somebody is 300 pounds, eating 300 grams of protein per day might not be possible or necessary.

In these cases, I like to use 1.25 grams per pound of Lean Body Mass.

 So lets say that someone is 260 pounds, and 35% body fat. 260 x .35 = 91 pounds of body fat. Taking the total weight (260) minus the body fat (91) gives us 169 pounds of lean body mass x 1.25 = 211 grams of protein.

If you are serious about your training (or health for that matter), you need to be serious about your protein intake. Training is catabolic – meaning it breaks down muscle tissue. Sufficient protein is key for proper recovery and boosting performance.

If you are more sedentary, maybe its time to consider getting some weight training in – but that’s for another time. Our bodies eventually get to a point in our 30s and 40s where we start losing muscle mass. This is called sarcopenia. It has been proven that this process can be slowed or even reversed by following even a basic full body strength program and eating enough protein to facilitate recovery and maintain muscle mass.

So take a good look at home much protein you currently eat, and most likely you will be looking to increase your intake. If you are currently eating 100 grams, and your goal is 200 grams, I don’t recommend trying to make that jump overnight.

First, try to find what your consistent daily average is. (100 grams per day)

Then, try increasing by 10 grams per day for whole week (110 grams per day). Keep increasing by 10 grams per day every week until you get close to your goal intake.

I have found that naturally when people focus on increasing their protein intake, they start cutting out more and more less nutritious foods, especially foods that are loaded with junk carbs and greasy fats.

By simply starting slow, and slowly increasing until you get to your desired goal intake, and you will be once step ahead of everyone else who is still trying to jump from fad diet to fad diet.

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Stay healthy my friends,

Sweat Out The Stress: 3 Tips You Didn’t Know You Needed


I talk a lot on here about the benefits of working out – weight training in particular – but one often ignored benefit is the power that exercise has on our emotional well being.

While exercise in itself is technically a stressor (intense exercise causes elevations in cortisol, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing) – it can provide a ton of anti-stress effects and feelings to give you some pretty awesome benefits.

It has been found in numerous studies that  even just 5 minutes of physical activity can decrease feelings of depression and anxiety. I’m not claiming that a quick 5 minute run with make all your problems go away, but it might make you feel better.

So how does this all work? Is it from that feel good rush of endorphins we get? Maybe not…

When it comes to the “old” field of thought, exercise will increase your brains endorphins (your bodies endogenous – internal – opioids). However this is little evidence to support that this is a significant amount and we don’t see many hardcore gym goers looking like they are strung out on heroin.

Now many may say that they feel a “rush” of energy or improvements in mood during exercise – while exercise may increase endorphins slightly, the main reason we feel better during a workout is much more physical rather than hormonal – you are just moving, and the body is meant to move! Exercise increases blood flow, oxygen flow, and damn it just feels good to feel your body improving your time or weight lifted.

What has been proven – and is pretty neat, is how exercise helps improve your mind OUTSIDE of the gym

Exercise is technically a stressor on the body – it elevates cortisol – and the more intense the exercise is, the more elevation you get.

Just like training might be a form of practice for a sport or activity, training is also a form of practice for your bodies ability to handle stress outside of the gym.

Along with cortisol being elevated, the hormone norepinephrine (NE) rises as well. This is the hormone that is the target for elevation for most anti-depressant drugs. When NE rises, it forces the bodies systems (cardio, renal, muscular, nervous) to communicate better with one another, and manage stressful situations more efficiently.

So by exercising and increasing our NE during exercise, we are training out body to handle rises in cortisol more efficiently outside of the gym, and from our regular everyday stressors.

Now here’s a curveball…

As I have noted before, too much intense exercise (especially coupled with extreme dieting) is a big no-no and will only lead you down a path of wrecked bodies and hormones.

There is a popular quote out there that says something like “The Only Workout You Regret is The One You Missed”.

While this sounds badass and motivational, it’s wrong to a certain point.

The workouts you regret are the ones where you didn’t listen to your body and guilted your self into doing some crazy high intensity workout while going off of 3 hours of sleep, no food, and in a severely dehydrated state. You don’t get a medal of honor for being a tough guy or gal in this case – you get a weakened immune system, a possible injury, and a body overwhelmed by stress.

To get the stress relieving benefits of exercise you need to train – but it has to be smarter, and not harder.

Here’s how:

1) Workout’s are only as beneficial as your recovery.

if you aren’t sleeping enough, not eating enough, and not taking time to just chillax a little bit, you will not be getting much out of your workouts, and only setting yourself up for more frustration. People need to start listening to their bodies more. If you know you are tired, and underfed – go for a 30 minute walk instead of doing the latest 100 Burpee Challenge (the worst thing ever invented).

You will be fine, you will feel better, and you will be better prepared for your next actual hard session.

2) Exercise is VERY Important…but isn’t for weight loss.

Stop counting your calories burned from exercise. Read that again. Yes, a trainer is telling you this.

When we put the stress of “I’ve gotta burn X calories” we take the fun out of training. Here’s a buzzkill – your calorie burn trackers are inaccurate anyways.

Exercise has so many amazing benefits, but as a primary source for weight loss it’s a terrible idea and its a trap that many gyms like to sell people on…

Exercise is for health, strength, fun, stress relief, social interaction, longevity, vitality…but not weight loss.

3) Have a plan A and B for your workout.

Ever go to bed, thinking about how you are going to CRUSH the weights the next day, or burn the pavement up with your epic sprints…only to wake up feeling sore, beat up, and groggy?

Instead of trying to stick to plan A and grind through, keep a plan B in your back pocket. That doesn’t mean do nothing, but it means pick something that is less stressful. Your body is probably trying to tell you something here.

Maybe work on mobility, lower intensity cardio, a more dynamic effort workout (lighter weights for speed), or at least shorten up your intense part of your session and couple it with some lower intensity walking and foam rolling at the end.



Don’t get me wrong – this is not a pass to start going “easy” on all your workouts – because most people truly don’t push themselves to an intensity that they can actually handle – but if you are a hardcore gym goer, and starting to feel a little burnt out, maybe it’s time to take a little step back and let your body level out a bit.

So next time you are feeling “blah”, go for a walk – even 5 minutes – and then assess what’s going on. That might be all you need, or you might be ready to toss around some weights – but either way, listen to your body, and keep the enjoyment in exercise.



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Stay healthy my friends,

Learn For Yourself, Think For Yourself, Speak For Yourself


This weekend I saw a segment on the morning news about the investigations into Russian Troll Farms. These are the places that pump out emotionally charged, often ridiculous, social media posts, in order to sway your views, votes, and your opinion – and further divide our country.

For example, from the presidential campaign:

Page: Army of Jesus – “A Vote for Hilary is a Vote for Satan” – clearly targeted at Christian voters.

Page: Born Liberal – “Bernie Sanders: The Clinton Foundation IS the Problem!” – followed by some “quotes” by Bernie Sanders ripping on the Clinton Foundation – clearly targeted at potential Liberal voters, in order to sway votes from Clinton.

These are from sites that have been proven to be fake accounts, with the main goal of creating division and emotional knee jerk response.

The problem is people share, share, share, and share these posts as FACT, without even looking into them.

I see it all the time on social media – people simply sharing viral memes, and infographics that have cherry picked data, clever editing, and “facts” that don’t often tell the whole story.

So what the heck does this have to do with fitness and nutrition?

It’s the exact same problem.

“This ONE Food Will Trigger You to Gain Fat Instantly!”

“This 4 Minute Workout is ALL You Need to Get Shredded!”

“This supplement changed this woman’s life, and she’s sharing her secrets!”

“Lose 14 pounds in 4 days with this SCIENCE BACKED CLEANSE”

“Cut out carbs, and never DIET AGAIN!”

All this is bull****. But people click, click, click and share share share.

Just like the political posts, these are meant to get you to buy products (in the case of political posts – your support via votes)

We have become a society of instant gratification, social media justification of education (it has been proven that most people share things not to try and educate others, but to prove that they are “smart” about said topic), and using dumbed down memes to display our feelings and thoughts about various topics.

So here is what I encourage you to do:

1) Learn For Yourself

See a claim that one food will solve all your problems? Look for references. Look for data. Look for the source of the article. Look into the claims before jumping to a conclusion and buying an entire case of grass fed butter to put in your coffee. Reach out to a professional, ask questions, and learn about the claims being made.

Does the post tell the whole story? Or did they leave out some pretty important details?

2) Think For Yourself

After looking into claims, ask yourself “Does this make sense?”

Do you agree with the claims being made and feel that they are legit, and credible. Come to your OWN conclusion based off of actual research and data.

While social media does a lot of good – it also has created a mass echo chamber where everyone “likes” and “shares” stuff with the simple click of a button – and we become numb to actually thinking for ourselves. “If this guy has Dr. in front of his name he MUST be legit!” or “She has a killer body, so she MUST be a fitness and nutrition professional!”

Spoiler alert – if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is!

3) Speak For Yourself!

Instead of just sharing a selectively suggestive post, write up a few sentences expressing how YOU feel. Create your own content. Speak from the heart. If this is how you feel – be confident in your position, but also be open to adult conversation and debate.


If you are convinced that “Carbs Are the Devil” – be ready to share what you found from looking into studies and examples – and be ready for some discussion.

I fully respect and support anyone who can come up with their own beliefs and conclusions, and will support their right to these beliefs – even if I don’t agree with you.

So lets do better folks. Start learning for yourself, thinking for yourself, and speaking for yourself.

Only then can you actually start DOING for you yourself.

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Stay healthy my friends,

The Best “Lent Approved” Lean Protein Sources

This could be titled: the best lean protein sources that are not poultry, red meat or pork…so I hope everyone reads it whether or not you practice the season of Lent.

But I had to represent for all my people out there who are struggling to know how they can keep their gains on Fridays.

Here’s the deal – Lent is 40 days long, so there are 5-6 Fridays that fall in that span. If you don’t quite hit your protein numbers for the day you will be totally fine.

HOWEVER, if you are like me and can’t miss an opportunity of your attempt to be packing on as much muscle as possible before beach season (2 week span in Wisconsin) we gotta get that protein in! 

Here are the best sources of protein based on the amount of protein per what I would consider a decent size serving (20-30 grams of protein).

1/2 cup Egg Whites + 1 whole egg

4 oz. of any white fish (tilapia, cod, walleye, perch)

  • **4 oz. is roughly the size of a deck of cards.**

4 oz. of salmon

5 oz. can of tuna or salmon 

4 oz. of pretty much ANY seafood, shellfish, fish, etc.

1 scoop of protein powder (do not try getting all your protein from powders)

1/2 cup dry oats + 1/2 cup fair life milk + 1/2 cup Oikos Triple ZERO Vanilla Greek Yogurt.

1 cup of cottage cheese

1 cup of Greek Yogurt

1 cup of FairLife Milk + 3/4 cup Special K Protein Cereal

1 cup of Kodiak Cake Pancake Mix (also contains 60 grams of carbs)


Notice I didn’t say stuff like beans, peanut butter, cheese sticks, nuts…

While it is true that all of these do have some protein in them, I would not consider them protein sources, rather fat or carb sources with some protein in them.

Thats not to say that they cannot be eaten, but just that I wouldn’t consider them high protein foods to base a meal around.

Best of luck this Lenten season, may your gains be blessed.

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Stay healthy my friends,

The Process Must Match the Goal – Interview With Figure Pro Ariel M

“I want to look like ______”

The statement gets thrown around way too often and way to “irresponsibly”. I believe that having a goal is always a great idea, but it also much be realistic. Nothing is impossible, but it might take much more than you believe.

If you ask me what I would ideally look like, I would say the classic physique of Steve Reeves. Muscular, proportionate, and a full head of hair…

Will I get here? Maybe someday…but maybe not, and thats cool.

So when someone comes to me saying they want 6 pack abs, chiseled arms, and no flabby saggy skin…and they want it now, and they currently are training 1-2 times per week, and have no clue what they are eating plus weekends spent hungover, I know we have a lot of work to do…but it can be done!

Want to know what it takes?  Look no further than my friend Ariel M, who’s amazing achievements include:

OCB Figure PRO
Nationally qualified Bikini Competitor NPC 2014-2015

Here is her process for getting stage ready:

What made you want to start competing? I was an athlete growing up, and have always been a (friendly) competitive personality. A year into college, I was missing that feeling of challenge and personal motivation. My mother competed on and off for about 7 years which is how I was introduced to the bodybuilding industry. I knew how big of a feat it was to get your body ready for the stage and felt like I was in the right place to compete in a sport on this extreme level.


How far out from getting on stage do you start modifying your training/diet – if at all? Healthy eating and various forms of exercise have always been a part of my day to day routine, regardless of any sport. For competitions, I start following a more strict diet plan and dial in my weight lifting routine at around 20 weeks out. I used to start 16 weeks out but the longer prep time gives me more flexibility to make gradual changes as I go without being too aggressive right off the bat.


What does the average week look like when it comes to training for getting into such amazing aesthetic shape? How many days lifting? How many days cardio? What were your splits? How much time did you spend each day training? For me, 6 days per week lifting, 1 hour on average, sometimes more or less. I have switched up my lifting routine quite a bit over the last 6 years of competing. I have done opposition splits: bi/tri, chest/back, shoulder day, 2 leg days (1 glute and hamstring focused) and a cardio/ core/ total body day. Now I do 2 heavy strength days upper and lower body (10 reps or less) and 2 hypertrophy days (higher rep), 1 core/cardio day, and the last day I do whatever body part I feel like needs attention (usually shoulders, back or glutes). I do 1 day of short HIIT cardio, mostly sprints and stair runs for 15-30 min. When I teach cardio classes I’m doing 2-3 days of spin class, 45 min – 1 hour. Writing this out makes me realize how much time I really spend working out. I love working out, so when I’m in the gym, it feels timeless most days. I’m not usually watching the clock because I enjoy being there.


What was your diet like towards your peak physique? Whew. In the very beginning before I start counting macros or weighing food, I start eliminating processed foods from my diet. I begin drinking less alcohol (baby steps!). I pack all my food so I am sure I’m eating every 3 hours or so. After a few weeks of this, I’m in the mindset. I start following my macro plan (given to me by my coach Lisa Feran) and eating a set amount of proteins, carbs and fats (off my clean grocery list) at around a 15% caloric deficit. Week by week, as I feel like I am hitting a plateau, we change my diet, gradually eating less calories (usually less carbs). Nothing happens too fast though. I try to change as little as possible to see the results I need to see. I try to start as full as I can with the most calories and carbs as possible so that we have plenty of room to make changes. If I’m still progressing and losing body fat at a proper rate, then nothing needs to change! Towards the end I sometimes do a carb cycle with a few days low and one day higher carb. The final week to the show is extreme but keep in mind that I have been training toward this week for 19 weeks already, so it’s not that crazy when you think about it that way.  By the last few weeks I’m eating mostly chicken, fish, salmon, sweet potatoes, oats, brown rice, coconut oil, olive oil, eggs/egg whites, tons of veggies and always plenty of water. Consistent diet, small changes week by week with each week leading into the next and being 90% consistent 100% of the time. 


How much time do you spend working on your nutrition, as far as prepping, weighing, measuring, etc.? (how much is involved). I spend about 2 hours on Sunday cooking, weighing and packing. This prep usually gets me though Wednesday or so. Then I spend around 20- 30 min each night  making sure I keep the rotation of food from the freezer to oven to tupperware. Crock pots help with cooking time. I have plenty of tupperware to make things easy and quick to pack. I go to the grocery store 2-3 days a week to make sure my produce is fresh. Having a good cooler that packs tupperware nicely is another huge help.


How did your diet make you feel, or how did you feel during your prep? Mood? Energy? Any noticeable changes, good or bad? In the very beginning before I start counting macros or weighing food, I start eliminating processed foods from my diet. I begin drinking less alcohol (baby steps!). I pack all my food so I am sure I’m eating every 3 hours or so. After a few weeks of this, I’m in the mindset. I start following my macro plan (given to me by my coach Lisa Feran) and eating a set amount of proteins, carbs and fats (off my clean grocery list) at around a 15% caloric deficit. Week by week, as I feel like I am hitting a plateau, we change my diet, gradually eating less calories (usually less carbs). Nothing happens too fast though. I try to change as little as possible to see the results I need to see. I try to start as full as I can with the most calories and carbs as possible so that we have plenty of room to make changes. If I’m still progressing and losing body fat at a proper rate, then nothing needs to change! Towards the end I sometimes do a carb cycle with a few days low and one day higher carb. The final week to the show is the most ‘extreme’ but keep in mind that I have been training toward this week for 19 weeks already, so it’s not that crazy when you think about it that way. Bodybuilders don’t eat like they do the final week all the time. There is no magic food I’m eating to get me lean. It’s all foods people eat almost every day: lean proteins, healthy fats like coconut oil and almonds, whole carbs like potatoes, oats and rice and a huge diversity of vegetables and plenty of water of course. Consistent diet, small changes week by week with each week leading into the next and being 90% consistent 100% of the time is the key. 


What did you like about competing? What did you not like? I have an amazing coach and team which makes competing fun and rewarding to be surrounded by others like me. Second to my team, the thing I love most about competing is the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction of completion after a long prep process. Being on stage is a way I can express myself and present my art. I have molded my body through self determination and willpower and feel honored to preset my hard work in this way. I recognize that I am not my body, rather my body is just my shell in which I’ve been given to live. This personal embodiment and aesthetic side of the sport is what makes bodybuilding so unique.


Anything else you want to add for people who want to get into stage ready shape? Physical and mental health are of the utmost importance. Be sure to talk with a coach who has experience in the industry. Training for a bodybuilding competition is not like training for any other sport. The mental and emotional side are a different challenge than other types of extreme sports so it is important to have a qualified person whom you trust to help you navigate the journey both to the competition and the time following after!

Learn more about Ariel and give her a follow!

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STOP Exercising to Lose Weight

Major benefits of exercise in general:

  • Improved heart/blood health
  • Improved mood
  • Improved coordination
  • Improved blood pressure, blood glucose, and blood cholesterol

Direct major benefits of pure cardio exercise:

  • Improved cardiovascular endurance
  • Improved resting heart rate
  • Improved performance in cardiovascular events/activities

Direct major benefits of strength training:

  • Improved muscle mass/”tone”
  • Improved strength
  • Improved bone mineral density
  • Improved insulin sensitivity

Notice none of those said “weight or fat loss”?

Relying soley on exercise to lose weight is a terrible idea. Is it part of the equation? Yes, but a much more minor part than most think.

If you constantly think you need more and more exercise, and to do this class, or go on this run, or up your miles, or start 2 a days you are setting yourself up for a major bummer.

Sidenote: if you truly enjoy doing tons of exercise, running, biking, classes, etc. and you aren’t getting worn down, or feeling burnt out – then that is awesome, keep doing them! But you don’t NEED to do them…

If you feel the need to dreadfully add more and more exercise, it is not going to get you anywhere.

From a physiological and thermodynamics level:

Heres some numbers to cheer you up:

  • A 185 pound person will burn about 266-378 calories per hour in a strength training class (a lighter person will burn less)
  • Most people will burn, on average, 100 calories per 1 mile traveled on foot. So if you run 5 miles, thats about 500 calories.
  • Various numbers can be given for different exercises, and modalities – so the results can be very variable and unpredictable

How easy is it to eat 266 calories? That’s about a handful of mixed nuts, a bite of your kids mac n cheese, and a girl scout cookie after dinner. Pretty damn easy to “cancel” out that calorie burn from that workout – I guess it was pointless….

This is the problem with thinking of exercise purely as a calorie burn. Look back to the list at the top of all the benefits of exercise, cardio, and strength training. Those are some pretty awesome benefits. But when you only think of exercises as “how many calories can I burn”, you end up wrecking your relationship with it, and sometimes wrecking your body.

If you are always chasing the calorie burn from exercise, you start to sacrifice form for speed, you start to do stupid things in your workout just because they “burn more calories” or get your heart rate up (Burpee challenges are the worst thing I have ever heard of).

From a hormonal level:

Exercise stresses your body.

Dieting stresses your body.

Life stresses your body.

You body only recognizes this all as stress is stress is stress.

Exercising more and more, and eating less and less will work – for the short term.

Eventually somethings gotta give, and that something is usually your progress.

When we workout out over and over again with a goal to lose weight, we are constantly living in a stressed state, Couple that with most people not eating nearly enough or getting enough nourishment to fuel this many workouts, and you are looking to stall out or even start falling backwards.

Stress in all forms induces cortisol. Constantly elevated levels of cortisol can and will eventually shut your bodies metabolic furnace down, because we’ve got more important things to worry about than trying to burn fat. This will also greatly affect the production of sex hormones, slow down thyroid function and imbalance blood sugar levels. Lastly, it makes it hard for your body to create those ‘feel good’ hormones like serotonin.

And here is the WORST thing you can do when your body is under tons of stress from life, training, and dieting….eat low carb. (and what is the one diet most people gravitate towards these days?)

When your cortisol is already through the roof, your energy levels are zapped, yet you try and force yourself through more and more workouts – well, you body is just starving for carbs, but most people will deprive themselves of them – only putting your body into a crazier hormonal spiral.

So if we should stop exercising to lose weight, what should we do?

Stop exercising with the mindset of having to earn your food, or burn your meal…exercise for the benefits listed at the start of this post.

You may have been able to ignore your diet at the start, but its time to get real and be honest with yourself. Nutrition is the key component for fat loss – but it also doesn’t have to be dreaded or miserable.

Lastly, work to reduce your stress. Take a step back from crazy workouts, work on some breathing exercises, swap out a bootcamp for some yoga, and focus on improving your sleep and nutrition.

Exercise is great, but it should not be done out of guilt, or with a goal of just needing to burn more calories.


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