Battle of the Bulge: Domino’s Bread Bowl, KFC Chicken Pot Pie, and the Taco Bell Fiesta Taco Salad

It’s all going downhill people!

Although I believe in taking responsibility when it comes to your weight, I know the fast food chains of this country aren’t helping.  It like a nuclear arms race except with fat and calories.  The prices get smaller, the amount of food gets bigger, and your body hates you just a little bit more each time.  Today’s heavyweight battle will take place between the Domino’s Bread Bowl (Chicken Carbonara), KFC Chicken Pot Pie, and Taco Bell Fiesta Salad, three ‘meals’ where you get to eat the thing they’re packaged in (bowl, pie crust, taco shell).  Let’s find out which one is more damaging to your arteries, heart, self-confidence, well-being, and dignity.

The Chicken Carbonara

CarbonaraAh yes, the Chicken Carbonara.  If you go to Domino’s website, they don’t have the nutrition facts up for the bread bowls yet.  Luckily, the people over at yumyucky.com called up Domino’s and got the scoop.  I don’t blame them, if I was on their marketing team, I’d conveniently ‘forget’ to add this to the nutrition list too.  Oops!  Let’s see what we got here for the biggest offender:

Things that jump out at you immediately: 740 calories, 28 grams of fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, 05. grams of trans fat,  1140mg of Sodium, and 94 grams of carbs. Good lord.  Oh, and that’s just for half of it, because they call these little meals “two servings”…which means you can double everything listed above if you take down the whole thing.  When you can crank out 50 grams of fat, 1500 calories, 2300 mg of sodium and close to 200 g of carbs in one meal, you know your body is going to hate you.  That’s 120% of your daily saturated fat suggested intake in one single meal, in one tiny bowl.  But hey, it was only 5 bucks right?

I think the reason they list it as two servings is just in case you’re not interested in eating the bowl.  Who would order a bread bowl and not eat it?  Isn’t that the big appeal of this thing?  I also love that if you order a Bread Bowl online instead of calling you get $1 off your bill, which means you can get a heart-attack baked into a bread bowl without even have to leave your computer chair or pick up a phone.

To put this in perspective, if you want to burn off the calories from eating one of these things, you have to run 15 miles.  Yeah, that’s worth it.  Moral of the story: if you’re going to run a marathon tomorrow, feel free to eat 2 of these things and you’ll almost finish burning the calories at the end.

The KFC Chicken Pot Pie

potpie_Here we have the KFC Chicken Pot Pie.  Yikes.  690 Calories, 40 grams of fat, 31 grams of saturated fat, 1760 mg of sodium, and 57 grams of carbs.  Throw in a biscuit to complete the failure pot-pie and you get another 200 calories and 6 grams of saturated fat.  Okay, so the calories, carbs, and sodium is lower than the Bread Bowl.  Big deal.  You also have 37 grams of saturated fat in this pie of pain – that’s 200% of your daily requirement, condensed into a 5 dollar meal made by some yokel.  YEE HAW!  Search “KFC Chicken Pot Pie” on Google and the second link that comes up is a website begging people not to eat them.  That can’t be good for business.

I do have to give props for KFC coming through with GRILLED chicken on their menu now.  I bet the Colonel is rolling over in his grave and their marketing people are thinking, “Our name is Kentucky FRIED chicken, how the hell do we spin this one?” – but it’s a step in the right direction.  I haven’t check the nutrition on it yet, so they might be injected with gravy and lard.  Grilled > fried.  Every time.

Taco Bell Fiesta Taco Salad

tb-salad“Check under the beans,” says the allegedly attractive girl (I don’t see it) to the dude trying to find the lettuce in his “salad” in the new Taco Bell commercial for the Fiesta Taco Salad.  What drives me nuts is that it seems like this country has given up completely on even TRYING to be remotely healthy.  Polishing off one these salads of sorrow will fill your stomach with this conglomeration of chaos (alliteration ftw!): 845 calories, 45 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 1.5 grams of trans fat (suck!), 1780 mg of sodium and 80 grams of carbs. Trans fat is the worst thing for you, and this has 1.5 grams of the stuff.  Taco Bell has never been known for healthy choices.  However, I think this one takes the cake in that they call it a salad, and then make fun of the fact that it’s so unhealthy for you that it’s just “technically a salad.”  Cue the Bud Light “Giant Taco Salad Inventor” commercial:


Taco Salad Inventor

Now, you take any of these three meals and add in a side item of fries, breadsticks, a coke, etc. and you’re looking at a really cheap way to kill yourself slowly.  With everybody feeling the pinch from the economy being in the gutter, these fast food companies will continue to produce the cheapest, unhealthiest option and wave it in front of your face with multimillion dollar marketing campaigns.  It makes me sad watching these commercials, because I know the people buying this crap will ultimately end up in the hospital with heart problems and it will be my tax dollars paying for it.

Just say no people!  Friends don’t let friends eat this stuff.

-Steve

How Jim the Biker Lost Over 100 Pounds

Big Jim at over 320 lbs

Before: Jim at over 320 lbs

Meet my friend Jim.  He’s the man.

About a year ago, I met a friend through work named Jim Hodgson and somehow we got on the topic of fitness.  When he told me that he used to weigh over 320 pounds I couldn’t believe it; Jim seemed like one of the healthiest guys I’ve ever met; he rides his bike everywhere, he competes in races, and has insane amounts of energy.  Oh, and he could totally kick my ass in Counter-Strike.  When I put this site together, I asked Jim if he’d be interested in talking about his story, his success in losing so much weight,  and hopefully pass along some words of wisdom to other big guys who might think it’s already too late for them to make a change or they don’t have the right genetics to be healthy.

After: Jim over 100lbs lighter!

After: Jim over 100lbs lighter!

Jim is truly an inspiration, and my favorite part about it is that he lost over 100 lbs. in an non-traditional matter; he didn’t like dieting, and he was smart enough to recognize that burning more calories than consuming calories would produce weight loss….so he just set out to burn as many calories as possible every day.  Today’s post is really long, but if you’re tipping the scales and think all hope is lost this could be the thing that gets you off the couch and on the road to a better life.  Read it on your lunch break!

 

Hey Jim, can you describe a typical day before you decided to change your life, what did you weigh?

Jim: I remember stepping on the scale when I sort of had that “Ok, that’s enough” moment, and the needle went around twice. It’s not supposed to do that.  The number in my mind is 320, but I don’t know how precise that is. Definitely well into giant fat man territory, though.  I would get up, eat some Lucky Charms, go to work, smoke cigarettes, do some coding, smoke more cigarettes, go eat a big burger for lunch, then eat a bigass meal that night and plop down and play games or watch TV. Basically I shoveled in the calories and didn’t burn any of them.

Did one thing push you over the edge? What was your motivation to make that change?

Jim: I always thought I would. I guess I just sort of figured that now was the time. Not getting any younger, all that. I spent a lot of years sort of fantasizing about losing weight and what I would do if I lost it, but not actually losing it.  So finally I was like “I guess I should get started.”  I bought a bike and started riding it to work. That’s how I lost the first 60 or so.

How about today?  Describe a typical day now, and now what do you weigh?

Jim: I actually don’t know. The last time I weighed it was 216 but that’s been a while. I personally never had much luck with scales. I would weigh myself every week and my weight would go up or down and it would affect me psychologically. So instead I just worked on my calorie intake and worked on my calorie output through exercise and stopped weighing.

I burned 4000 calories today on an 87 mile road ride [NF note: Holy ****!]. I can eat pretty much whatever I want.  I feel a lot better not obsessing when I’m up 3lbs from last time I weighed or whatever. Just stick to the plan. If you feel like crap, maybe you have a crap workout, but you still work out. If you stay in the game, you cannot fail no matter how slowly you progress. Stay in the game.

For me, weighing in on the scale is like the stock market. If you watch it every day it goes up or down, but if you look at it over a long period of time it trends in a certain direction. I’m much more concerned with my athletic ability and capacity for running at a certain pace or cycling at a certain pace for a given length of time.

As far as a typical day, I have a weekly schedule. I get up around 6am in the spring/summer/fall. In the winter I do a base building spin class so I get up before dawn so I can get in two hours before 7am. The rest of the time I get in a morning workout, then go to work (I like to be at my desk and cranking by 8 at the latest), then do an evening workout. On the weekends I do long runs or long rides. Wednesdays I do long swims. I go to bed around 10 or 11 usually.  I try to work in rest days but I feel slack on rest days so it’s a struggle. I also hate tapering for long races.

Lets talk about the future: what are your goals moving forward?

Jim: I want to continue to grow my business [NF: the link is at the end of the article], continue to get more fit, continue to be a positive force for people who need it, meet the right girl and start a family.  I really have all my goals exactly in place. It feels great. Now all I have to do is work hard.

What’s the most important thing that had the most impact on your weight loss?

Jim: Getting to the point where exercise and being active is not only fun, but a part of my life. I’m in a triathlon club. I’m on a cycling team. I have races I’m looking forward to and a growing list of stats and results from races I’ve done in the past.  Working out is not something I do because I think I should. Each workout has a purpose, and each week of workouts fits into a schedule that builds specifically for my racing goals for the year.

It makes it a lot easier to put a given workout into perspective, rather than feeling like a hamster on a wheel. I did the elliptical machine thing for a long time and I had some success with it, but I’m much more stoked about riding all day with my teammates than about trying to get on an elliptical machine and watch CNN or listen to my iPod.

Favorite video game of all time?

Jim: I’d have to say Counter-Strike. I’ve been playing it since beta 6.5 when the m4 still had a scope and there were drivable vehicles. I love that game. It’s the best FPS ever made in my opinion.  I still play CS a few times a week just to headshot a few n00bs and blow off steam. I love gungame. I’ve also recently been into Left 4 Dead, and I played through Fallout 3. My schedule is getting too packed to play much anymore, but I still like doing a Rock Band night with my friends.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be, and why?

Jim: I’d like to win the Tour de France, or win Kona. Not really a superpower since people do those things, but you know, I would want my superpower to be doing it without performance enhancing drugs. I’d probably rather win the Tour since that would annoy the French. America, baby. F*** yeah!

If I had to pick a real superpower I would pick flight, but that would probably get me disqualified from racing so I wouldn’t want it anymore…and I would pick incredible power to attract women, but I already have it. Sup, ladies? [NF note: hahahahahaha, nice.]

Do you have any advice for other guys in the same boat, trying to lose a large amount of weight?

JIm: I had much better luck with getting my calorie output up than getting my calorie intake down. Last week my heart rate watch recorded 12000 calories burned. I expect to probably have a 20000 week this summer. That means I still get to eat my favorite foods but I don’t gain weight because I’m super active. After my first marathon I ate half a large pizza, then went out that night for a cheeseburger. Hell yes.

Other items that helped me:

  • Stop drinking
  • Quit sodas. Yes, including Diet Coke.
  • If you smoke, quit
  • Stop eating so much. Hey-ohh!
  • Start racing.

In my experience, losing over 100lbs changed my life in a lot of ways that I thought it would and a lot of ways that I didn’t see coming at all. I used to be a really goofy silly guy and I’m not anymore. I used to sit around and watch TV all the time and I don’t do either one anymore. I don’t smoke or drink anymore. I don’t stay out late because I have a race or a training ride or my business to go to.

So, friendships that I had that were based on those things went through big changes. Or in other words, all of my friendships went through big changes because I went through big changes. I lost some friends. I made a bunch. Ultimately I am a million times happier now than I was.

People will hate on you and say discouraging stuff that they either don’t know or don’t care is discouraging. I have always been Big Jim. Granted, I am still 6’1″ and 210, and I swim all the time so I’m pretty thick, but I’m still tired of being Big Jim.  People are going to try to marginalize you and explain away your accomplishments because they know that if you can do it, they can too. I’m sick of talking about my Ironman race coming up in August because everyone says the same thing. “Oh my god, I could NEVER do that!” It makes me ill because that’s the mental attitude I had that kept me fat and miserable. F*** that.

Losing massive weight or training for a race as as easy or hard as flipping a switch. If you’ve decided you’re going to do it, nothing can stop you. If you haven’t, nothing can get you going.

Flip the switch.

If you haven’t noticed yet, Jim’s the man.  Follow Jim’s progress towards participating in the Ironman Triathalon this summer over at Jim Hodgson: Fat man to Iron man, follow him on twitter at twitter.com/jimhodgson, and check out his new social media company at www.wangwins.com.

5 Rules for Guaranteed Weight Loss

Don't worry Homer, we'll get you there

Don't worry Homer, we'll get you there

Alright people.  You’re starting to work out, you’re ready to get in shape, but you’re terrified of doing the whole ‘diet’ thing.  Diets get a bad reputation because all you hear about is how terrible they are and that they don’t work.  WTF?  I don’t know what the hell kind of diet these people are on, but the ones that actually work are pretty normal.  Remember, your diet can account for at least 80% of your success when it comes to weight loss.  Here’s five rules you should follow if you want to lose weight:

1) Double the number of meals you eat every day -  You want your metabolism to be constantly working, and you want your body to have a constant supply of fuel and nutrients throughout the day. By eating six times a day instead of three, your metabolism will always be working instead of start-stop-start-stop.  Obviously, this goes without saying: EAT BREAKFAST. After sleeping for eight hours, your metabolism is in hibernation-mode and needs to be kick-started right away.  After that, you’re going to want to eat every two to three hours.  Breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack. Simply figure out how many calories you can eat per day for weight loss, divide by 6 – pronto. There’s your meal plan.

2) Eat protein and good carbs with every meal – You might think eating 6 times a week is going to make you get even bigger.  Wrong, because you’re going to eat 6 good meals.  You want to make sure you get protein in each meal, because protein will build lean muscle (and lean muscle speeds up your metabolism).

Pick a protein.  Pick a carb.  Add a vegetable.

To see more information on how to create the perfect meal, read my blog from yesterday where I go more in depth on proteins, GOOD carbs, and vegetables.

3) Cut out the liquid calories - According to Men’s Health, the “average person consumes 459 calories, most of which come from sugar, in the beverages he or she drinks each day.”  You know all those sodas, juices, beers, etc. you drink every day along with your meal?  It’s the sugar that gets ya:  it jacks you way up, and then turns to fat.  If you can find a way to cut those out of your diet completely, you can lose close to an extra pound per week (500 less calories a day = 1 pound of body fat lost).  The best cure I’ve found for this is to just drink a lot of water.  Think about it: if you’re drinking water you’re NOT drinking something else.  Water is good for you, has zero calories, and doesn’t cost money (hit up that office water cooler people!).

4) Keep Track of what you eat – If you have to write down/type every single thing you eat, you’re going to be far more likely to make better choices.  Now, I hate writing things down and I’m terrible at keeping track of stuff…so I use the wonderful internet to help me out.  I keep track of all my meals and workouts (although I did slack last week) on Gyminee.com , and I’ve found that on weeks I pay attention and write it down, I stay on track, and when I start to slack and forget to input my meals the results for that week aren’t nearly as good.  I’ve recently been introduced to another website, www.aidiets.com – where you put in your diet goals and it will generate a meal plan for you (complete with recipes).  I haven’t got a chance to mess around with it too much, but I love the idea of putting recipes in there because I can’t cook anything but I can follow directions pretty well.

bigmeal5) Eat whatever the hell you want one day a week – Body For Life recommends it, Tim Ferriss (the man) recommends it, jury’s still out for me, so I’ll leave this one up for discussion.  Your stomach will recommend it too.  Pick one day a week, and eat whatever the hell you want: Twinkies, Gatorade, Mountain Dew, Taco Bell, donuts, whatever.    If you want to eat an entire family size pag of peanut M & M’s…okay that might be too much.  When you eat all this crappy food, your metabolism will have to work extra hard because it’s used to getting 6 good meals a day.  All of a sudden you throw a Domino’s bread bowl at it and it doesn’t know WHAT to do, so it works overtime.  The next morning, when you go back to eating healthy, your metabolism will KEEP working overtime and you’ll burn more calories.  Woot.  During the week, when you see that two week old birthday cake sitting in the company fridge, you can tell yourself “not til saturday.”  Plus, once you start eating healthy, you can use this One Day a week to reward yourself for being good..and eventually the food that used to be so appealing to you (and so terrible for you) might not seem so great.  This one is probably more of a mental edge than physiological, but I think it works for lots of people.  This one is up to you.  If you just want to go all out and stay dedicated for the whole week, more power to ya.  Here’s a great article laying out the pros and cons.

So there you have it.  6 meals a day.  Protein and GOOD Carbs in each one.  Drink water.  Keep track of what you eat.  Give yourself one day off.

Make it happen.  I’ll see you at the finish line.

-Steve

The 3 things that NEED to be in every meal if you’re serious about weight loss.

Peter knows that chicken is high in protein

Peter knows that chicken is high in protein

Every day you have a choice to eat right.  You have a choice to eat a grilled chicken sandwich or a family-size bag of peanut M & M’s for lunch.  Nobody is forcing you to eat better; you’re all grown’d up and you can make that call yourself.  If you are serious about getting in shape, then you need to be even more seriouser (yeah I made that word up) about what you put in your body.  It’s like trying to run a corvette on crappy gasoline: it might work, but you’re doing the car a disservice.  All the exercising in the world can’t get you to where you want to be if you’re eating poorly.  Let’s start with one meal at a time.  There are two (sometimes three) things you want to keep in mind when picking out your meal:

Protein and Carbs – Protein builds lean muscle.  Carbs give your body the fuel it needs.

Why do I want protein? Protein = muscles (if you’re working out.  if not it will eventually become fat)  The more lean muscle you have, the faster your metabolism operates.  The faster your metabolism operates, the more weight you’ll lose.  Everybody wins.

Examples of protein: grilled chicken, turkey, fish (tuna, salmon, etc.) shellfish (lobster, crab, shrip) eggs, steak, lean ground beef, skim milk.

Want to know if something has protein?  Read the label.  You want to get at least 20 grams of protein in each meal if you can…more if you’re looking to bulk up and build muscle mass.  I eat probably 200 grams a day, evenly spaced throughout the day (30-35 grams per meal, every 3 hours).

Why do I want carbs? Because I want energy to get me through the day (no sugar/caffeine doesn’t count).  Because you’re working out/exercising, you want that protein to help rebuild your muscles, so you need to give the rest of your body fuel to keep going.  Without those carbs, your body will steal the protein for energy and the muscles won’t get built.

Examples of good carbs: baked potato, steamed brown rice, pasta, oatmeal, beans, nuts, anything that’s ‘whole grain,’ whole-wheat bread, apples, oranges.

What’s a bad carb? white flour, refined sugar, white rice.  White bread, candy, sugary drinks, etc.  Screw atkins.  Carbs aren’t the enemy.  BAD carbs are the enemy.  Eating way more than you should is the enemy.  Good carbs in moderation = NECESSARY.

And don’t forget your veggies. Try to add a serving or two of vegetables with your lunch and dinner.  Vegetables generally have very few calories so eat as many as you want…as long as they’re not deep fried or covered in ranch dressing.

Pick a protein.  Pick a carb.  Add a vegetable. It’s really that simple.  Pick one thing from each list and eat them together. BAM! There’s your healthy meal.  Picky eater?  Pick something that works for you from both lists, and eat a LOT of it.  And get used to it.  I eat grilled chicken every freaking day because I don’t like eggs or fish.

It’s tough to cook/pay for/eat/prepare/clean up after 6 meals every day.  Unless you have a full time chef on hand, cooking 6 meals a day would eat up all of your time (eat, get it? zing!).  I recommend buying pure whey protein (can be found for very cheap online at any store – don’t buy from GNC), and making a shake or two each day to fill in those “snacks.”  Just be careful what you buy – many ‘meal replacement’ shakes are loaded with cholesterol and sugar (future blog post coming soon on supplements).  I buy all my stuff on vitacost.com.  And no they’re not paying me to say that – it just happens to be the best place I’ve found to buy stuff online.

Keep it simple.  Find something you like, and learn how to cook it.

-Steve

PS On a completely unrelated note, I played through BioShock for the first time this weekend – wow, what an incredible game.  For those of you that have played it, this will make sense…just another example of how cheating your way to genetic perfection will surely backfire and cause city-wide riots under the ocean.  People just never learn.

Wait a Second, Breakdance Fighting is REAL!?

"They're break-dance fighting!"

"They're break-dance fighting!"

Last week, my friend Joe went to his first Muay Thai Boxing class at a gym in the area (blog post about it here), and hilarity ensued (to borrow a phrase from Tucker Max).  I’ve always been interested in studying a martial art to go along with strength training for a number of reasons:

  1. Why not?  It gives me something to do.
  2. I’ll be able to defend myself against ninjas, which is nice.
  3. It’ll improve my flexibility, which could use some work.
  4. I’ll feel like a badass. win-win!

Now, I was trying to decide which discipline to follow and I came across Capoeira, a Brazilian martial art originally developed by slaves.  What makes this one so awesome?  Um, it’s literally BREAK DANCE FIGHTING.  I’ll let that sink in for a second.  Yeah, take fighting, and throw in flips, spins, rhythm, and a big helping of awesome and you got yourself on hell of an afternoon.  I’ve been a terrible break dancer for years, and it’s something I’ve wanted to get back into, so I figure might as well learn some fighting moves and get better at that at the same time!

So I’ve done some research on Capoeira (apparently there’s this free encyclopedia on the net called Wikipeidia…who knew!), “Capoeira’s origins are not entirely clear. While many believe that the form displays a combination of African and Brazilian martial arts, historians are divided between those who believe it is a direct descendant of African fighting styles and those who believe it is a uniquely Brazilian dance form distilled from various African and Brazilian influences.  The sparring is marked by fluid acrobatic play, feints, and extensive use of sweeps, kicks, and headbutts.”  Sounds good to me, plus I’ll look like these guys:


Capoeira Circle

Now, I do have some concerns in going this direction.  One, there’s no real fighting when it comes to practicing Capoeira, it’s all about the movements and actually NOT hitting each other.  If you get in a fight with a dude, you’re not gonna wanna practice NOT hitting him.  You’re going to want to beat the **** out of him as quickly as possible if you’re in danger.   Plus, if it happens in a bar or some place similar, then break dance fighting probably won’t help.  Anybody out there ever done Capoeira?  Can it actually be effective in a real-life situation?  I’d consider studying Capoeira alongside a more applicable study like Brazilian Ju-Jitsu (also taught at the same gym) or Muay Thai boxing with Joe.  Either way, I’d definitely like to jump into Capoeira soon.  At the very worst, I could look like this guy and get cast in the next You Got Served movie.


Best Break dancing I’ve Ever Seen

Any Capoeira people out there? Any recommendations? Would anybody NOT recommend Capoeira?

-Steve

You’re not drinking enough water. Don’t lie to me!

How much water are you drinking every day? If you’re looking for optimal health, especially if you’re working out and running…I can almost guarantee you’re not drinking enough unless you make a concentrated effort to do so.  Are you going all out in the gym and kickin’ your ass?  You should be consuming a gallon of water a day if you’re a dude, and close to 3/4ths of a gallon if you’re a girl.  If you’re not hitting the gym that hard, then less water is okay.  However, if you’re not hitting the gym hard or training hard during your workouts, you’re wasting your time punk!

The main thing is to not rely on your thirst-meter in your body to drink water, especially when working out.  Your brain will tell you that you’re thirsty long after your body actually needs it, so I find it’s helpful to just go get a few gulps at the water fountain or from my waterfall during each set.  Bring a water bottle with you to the gym so you don’t have to get up from the machine/bench every 30 seconds…and you’ll be more likely to drink more.

Your kidneys, the things a boxer tries to beat the crap out of during a match, exist to balance your body out with its fluid levels. When you work out and sweat, your body loses that fluid and needs to be put back in or else your muscles will suffer and your workout will suffer.  Because your body will often process that liquid before it’s able to put it back where it belongs, you need to drink MORE than normal after a workout.  Let’s talk about the best method to keep ahead of the game when you’re working out:

  • Two hours before you work out, drink between half a liter and a liter of liquid..any kind, anything other than booze.  Water is a great choice, because it’s free and plentiful.  Yay for water!
  • While working out, you need to get water into your system quickly so it can rapidly replace the water loss through sweat.  Start drinking it before you even feel thirsty.  In between each set, keep chugging.  6-8 Fluid ounces every 15 minutes.
  • After working out, you need to get your body ready for the next workout by getting the levels back to normal.  Because you’ve been chugging water, you probably need to piss like a race horse.  However, your fluid balances still aren’t back to normal, so you need to keep drinking.  If you can work some sodium into either your liquid or food intake after the workout, your body will retain water longer, giving it more time to absorb and use and regain balance.  You know what has sodium in it, Bobby Boucher? That’s right, GATORADE.  Ruh roh…
  • Drink water throughout the day.  Not only is it good for you, but it’s good to stay hydrated even if you aren’t working out that day.    Trying to lose weight?  Drink lots of water before you eat lunch and you might find your appetite curbed.  If you work in an office or from home, you already have a free abundant supply of the stuff, just keep a glass or bottle on your desk and fill it up every morning when you come in.  And who KNOWS what kind of gossip you’ll hear over by the water cooler while you’re there.  Did you hear that Billy slept with Gina’s sister?  Totally.

You can read my previous post, What the eff is an electrolyte? Is Gatorade really worth it?

-Steve

Make Sure You’re Not THAT Guy

Don't do it.

Don't do it.

Let’s be honest – nobody likes that guy.

He’s the guy in the gym who tells you that he knows better exercises, or that he can do it better, or that he can lift more than you can.  He’s the guy who one-ups you for no reason.  He’s also the guy in your office who makes a comment every time anybody eats anything remotely unhealthy.  “Eating a donut huh? Let me tell you how many calories and grams of fat are in that.  But good for you.”  He’s the guy who gives you advice whether you want it or not.

I HATE that guy!

Even though you’re changing your life and making yourself a better person, you’ll still be surrounded by people who aren’t healthy that might not make the same healthy decisions that you do.  To that, you have to say “who gives a ****?”  As the great T.I. once said, “Live your life.”  Of course, he’ll be saying that from jail for the foreseeable future, but that’s not the point.  You live your life and let others live theirs.  Let them do what they want, and only offer up advice or criticism if they’re looking for it.  However, don’t be surprised once you lose 20 lbs and develop a six pack that people start to ask you for a tip or advice. THEN, and ONLY then, can you help them out with tips on how to be healthy.

Don’t be that guy, please I beg you. Don’t be that guy in your office.  Don’t be that guy at the gym.  Don’t be that guy in your house.  I’m not just talking about being healthy either: this can apply to all facets of life.  Nobody else cares about how much better you are than them, or how much tougher you have it than they do, or what they’re doing wrong, so don’t tell them!  It’s not a competition…unless it is a competition, in which case you should lie your ass off.

Now, there might be instances where intervening is absolutely important, like if somebody is literally killing themselves with unhealthy choices and they need help but refuse to see it.  For example, if your friend is going to stick a fork into a socket, maybe you should tell him that he shouldn’t.  Now unless it’s this bad, let people do their thing.  Nobody likes to be told what to do, especially by a know-it-all.  Lead by example and you’ll be far more likely to make a positive impact on the people around you.

-Steve

Surrounding Yourself with the Right People

Secret of Mana - Way Better with a Good Group

Secret of Mana - Way Better with a Good Group

Let’s face it, exercising on a regular basis and eating healthy is a huge challenge. It’s constantly a struggle to stay in shape because it’s so much easier to take the day off, eat whatever is put in front of you, and sit on the couch instead.  This is doubly true if you’re just starting out, because you haven’t had a chance to get good habits in place yet (I’ve heard it takes around 28 days for a new habit to form).  What’s worse is if you’re out of shape, you’re probably surrounded by people who are making less healthy choices than you when it comes to a good lifestyle.  That’s just how it works; if everybody ate healthy and exercised, then we wouldn’t be in this mess (2/3rds of the country being overweight, and 1/2 of those people being obese.  Yikes.)

Working out by yourself is tough because there’s nobody to hold you accountable.  It’s even more difficult if you’re surrounded by people who aren’t positive influences, constantly telling you to skip your routine to play Halo, go the the bar instead of going to the gym, or even making fun of you for eating healthily.  If you’re in this situation, I’m not going to tell you to change friends – you hang out with them for a reason.  Just always remember: you’re the one who will be in shape.  You’re the one that will live longer, avoid so many more health risks, you’re the one that will look better and feel better.  Let them make their comments – stay strong inside, and then make fun of them for being out of shape when they can’t walk up a flight of stairs.

Now, imagine a reverse situation. You’ve decided to get in shape, and you’ve told all of your friends and co-workers.  When you go to the gym, they ask you how it went when you came back.  When you come home from the grocery store without any Oreos they don’t get mad at you.  They understand when you have to take 2 hours off from playing World of Warcraft to go to the gym.  They help you prepare food that is good for you.  If it’s their birthday in the office, they don’t get mad when you don’t eat their cake.

Which scenario is going to foster more growth and success?

Tell yourself every day that you’re going down the right path, don’t listen to the haters, and you’ll get it done.  Anybody who has played any sort of co-op game knows: having guys on your team that just insult each other can have a negative effect, but playing with a lot of positive people who challenge you to get better can make the experience more enjoyable and more successful.

Form a good group around you, and you’re only going to get better.

-Steve

Made a big change in your weight and want to keep it that way?

You think this guy gave up after losing the weight? Hell no!

You think this guy gave up after losing the weight? Hell no!

I grabbed dinner last night with Mike Rickett, an amazing personal trainer from Colorado who has become my mentor since teaching my personal training certification course.  I even wrote an article about him being my Yoda.  Anyways, I was discussing my current fitness plan to get to 185 pounds by June 1st.  I’m a week and a half of schedule already, so  I asked him what what to do if I get to 185 before that deadline, should I continue to try and gain weight, start to cut the weight, or maintain.

Mike made an excellent point, and something that I have spent all night considering.  Your weight can fluctuate a great deal in a 30 day span (see my 18 lbs gained in only 30 days a few years back), but if you give up on that routine too quickly after the change, your weight will go RIGHT back to where it was.  This is because your weight might change, but it will take the rest of your body six months to get caught up.  Your skeleton needs to adjust, your arteries, metabolism, heart, lungs, and every vital organ needs to get used to this new “you,” and it’s not an overnight process.  Think of it like this: your body is a skeptical s.o.b., and it will take six months for it to finally believe you’re staying at this new weight before it changes.

This is why you often see people who drop a lot of weight get very quickly end up right back where they started just as fast – they gave up their routine after finding “success” and their bodies hadn’t adjusted yet making it easy for the body return to the “norm.”  And by “norm,” I just mean what your body is used to…which could be 100 pounds overweight.

I looked back at my fitness routines over the past three years and realized I had been every time I’d successful gain muscle mass I’d lose it all due to travel for work, getting sick, or cheating on my diet.  I’d gain 10 pounds, get excited, and then slack and I’d drop right back to where I was because my body hadn’t adjusted yet.

Once I hit my goal weight, I have to reconfigure my workout plan and diet; it doesn’t mean I’m going to stick with the same weights and diet for six months.  It means I’m going to keep an eye on my weight more closely, and adjust my routines accordingly.  If I start to put on more weight, I’ll cut some calories and increase my cardio exercise.  If my weight starts to drop, I’ll aim for heavier weights, longer rests between workout days, and increase the power of resistance on my cardio (while maintaining time).  It’s a balancing act that I never realized I needed to play, but I’m ready for it.  185 lbs for me has been a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for four years, and I’m going to get there.

If you’re planning on changing your weight, make sure to keep pushing even after you’ve hit that landmark or you could go right back to where you were.  Winston Churchill once said, “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.” Think of your battle with fitness as a war.  You can’t surrender, you have to keep pushing, you have to win.

Get there.

-Steve

Joe tries Muay Thai – hilarity ensues.

Earlier this week, I wrote about staying motivated and bringing intensity to the gym each and every day.

A reader of Nerd Fitness (shout out to Evan) commented about staying motivated by mixing things up with Muay Thai boxing to stay in shape.  I’ve been chatting with my friend Joe (a programmer for Radiant Systems, former top-ranked player in the world on Xbox Live in Halo 2, and one of the strongest mofo’s I know) about trying our hand at some martial arts to stay motivated ourselves.  Well, what do you know – Joe managed to find a MMA training center, complete with Muay Thai boxing, right down the street from where he lives!  He went and checked it out today…this is how it went:

This dude will end you.

This dude will end you.

Joe: I’ve always been interested in martial arts, but as a youngin’ my parents would never let me do anything like that, so all I could do was drool over Kung Fu movies and The Matrix action scenes. Me and Steve were talking the other day and he got me pumped up about actually doing something about it. So that, plus wanting to get some more entertaining cardio and stress relief into my schedule, I’ve decided to try my hand at learning Muay Thai.

This martial art revolves around pounding people to a pulp with your fists, elbows, knees, and feet — NICE, where do I sign up!? I checked out some gyms in the Atlanta area and found one close to me that offered some beginner classes. So after work today I headed to that gym and got set up a free learner session. After outfitting me with some hand wraps and boxing gloves, the main instructor lead me over to their training area and tells me to start jumping rope. After 5 minutes of exhausting myself doing that (yea I’m outta shape with the cardio) we threw on the gloves and started some basic punches. I learned quickly that no matter which hand I’m throwing, I have to use the other one to block the other side of my head. There are so many youtube videos of guys getting roundhouse kicked to the opposite side of the head after a failed punch, so it’s a good lesson to learn. It was pretty thrilling though to start beating up a bag doing some combo punches they showed us, but WOW you get exhausted fast — and I was just doing the warm up.

After this initial lesson we got thrown into the boxing ring with a partner. One of us would perform the same punch combos we just learned on the other, who was holding blocking bads. I was first to throw punches, and man it was fun to slam punches into this kid, knocking him back.. but I tired so quickly I had to restrain myself and work on form and just getting through the damn exercise first! Just holding your arms up and thrusting them really takes a lot out of you, and when you add 2 lb gloves your deltoids start to screaaam. So after beating the crap out of this kid for 10 minutes (and doing some super-fast cardio punch drills) it was my turn to hold the pads. I thought this would be the ‘easy’ portion of the exercise, but oh no. These pads weigh a good bit more (and for good reason) and holding them up is an endurance test all its own. Well, me and the other dude survived the punching drills and got to take a well needed 30 second break :ugh:.

The kicking portion was now underway (oh boy) and the instructor showed us how to pivot on your foot and bring your hips over and around to really pack a whallop. Best thing in this drill was to remember to try to kick THROUGH the person, like you were chopping them in half. Well my partner was used to some other style of kick, and was having trouble getting the technique down. I was holding the pads when the instructor came over and sized up to me to show him the technique. He looks at me and does a slow motion kick up to the pads to show the proper form to both of us. Then this guy just performs this epic move in what I can only describe as a Bruce Lee leg-explosion, almost levelling me from hitting the pads so hard. I’m pretty sure it would’ve killed me had the pads not been there. Then just for fun the instructor decides to roundhouse the living bajessus out of the pads twice more. I think he wanted to show me that just because I was bigger than him didn’t mean I could beat him up. A very humbling lesson indeed! After absorbing some much more powerful kicks it became my turn. Let me tell you: There’s nothing more satisfying in a gym than lining up and getting to kick some poor random person. And then repeating it over and over :D. Granted, I tired after like 10 kicks and would’ve lost any fight after that, but it really goes to show the amount of training and endurance that these athletes have.

After making me do high kicks until my legs and abs were gonna cramp and and die the drill was finally over. Now I can finally get some water and rest and relax — errr, nope. First had to do 5 sets of 10 pushups, 10 crunches, and 10 standing squats with no break. Then do 3 minutes of planks. Then do mountain climbers. Then collapse in a pool of your own sweat, tears, and probably some other people’s too. Then the instructors had the nerve to INVITE ME BACK. WHAT!? And I thought we had outlawed torture in this country :D. I will say it was the best workout I’ve had in years, and will hopefully continue the training — as soon as my body recovers. If any of you are looking for a ridiculous workout and a total body endurance makeover, I suggest you try out one of these programs. I definitely got my ass kicked today, but if I stick with it, I’ll one day turn that equation around.

-Joe

Want to Lose Weight? Don’t Get Caught Up in the Numbers

Don't get caught up in the numbers AH AH AH

Don't get caught up in the numbers AH AH AH

So you’re going to lose weight. You’ve managed to follow your exercise routine for the whole week, you ate right, and then you stepped on the scale and it didn’t change.  WTF mate?!  Your natural reaction is to get bummed out and probably go sulk in the corner.  Now, let’s say you push through to the next week and realize you’ve suddenly lost 7 pounds!  You get all giddy and decide to celebrate by eating an entire birthday cake.  That…was…an overreaction.

This happens all too often to people at the gym, and I’ve definitely been guilty of agonizing over pounds gained/lost on a daily basis.  It’s not healthy, it’s not productive, and it’s only going to cause you unnecessary stress.   You gotta think long term people!  Don’t ride the roller coaster. If you’ve set a goal weight for 8 weeks from now, monitor your progress daily, but don’t beat yourself up over the numbers until the end.  Our bodies are complex pieces of machinery – there are so many moving parts, so many things coming in and going out all the time, and so many processes taking place that your weight can fluctuate like crazy in the short term.

What you CAN do is evaluate how you feel and how strong you are compared to previous gym session.  Sure the scale might say you’ve only lost 1 pound, but are you breathing easier?  Can you lift more?  Can you run a mile faster than you did last week?  Then who cares what the scale says, you are on the right path.  If you’re gaining weight and not getting stronger, then maybe there are things that you need to analyze, like your diet or workout routine.

Your weight can vary big time if you weigh yourself in the morning vs. at night, before a workout vs. after, on Fridays vs. on Mondays, etc.  Hell, your weight could be way off simply because you ate a big lunch and chugged a gallon of water and haven’t been to the bathroom yet.  It happens, so take individual results with a grain of salt.  If you overreact and try to overdo your diet, you might end up doing more harm than good. If you want to track your weight properly, here’s what you can do:

  • Weigh yourself every day at the SAME TIME. First thing in the morning is usually a good idea, because it’s before you’ve had a chance to eat food all day.
  • Weigh yourself many times and take an average.
  • Use a GOOD scale. The 10 dollar one from Walmart probably isn’t gonna cut it.
  • Use the same scale every time.  Your bathroom scale might be way off compared to the one in the gym locker room.
  • Keep track of trends. Maybe average your weight on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and compare it to the average the week before for those same days (assuming you weigh in at the same time for every day).

Don’t get bent out of shape if your scale today doesn’t agree with you. Conversely, don’t get too excited if you’re suddenly down four pounds today, because it could just as easily change in the other direction tomorrow.  Keep an even head, and recognize that it’s a marathon, not a sprint.  If you get too invested in the numbers day-to-day, you could be screwing with your long-term results.

Stick with your plan regardless of what that scale said today.  Two months from now, if you keep doing what you’re doing then you’ll eventually realize your weight is just a number and is far less important than how you feel and look.  Muscle weighs more than fat anyways, which means you’ve probably lost more fat than the scale suggests.

As Frank the Tank says, “We can’t have anyone freak out out there ok? We’ve gotta keep our composure! We’ve come too far!  There’s too much to loose!! We gotta just KEEP OUR COMPOSURE!!!”  ::throws chair::

-Steve

Intensity – How to Make the Most of your Time in the Gym

Don't even think about half-assing it sucka

Don't even think about half-assing it sucka

I just got back from the gym soaking wet, wobbly, exhausted, beat up, and exhilarated.  That was a damn good 45 minutes.  I’ve come to realize a few things after spending years working out and watching 95% of the population “working out.”

You need to practice how you want to play. You know why somebody has a heart attack?  Because their heart isn’t strong enough to handle the rigorous activity that that it’s being put through, whether it be stress or activity related.  Your heart is a muscle you should be training every day.  If you never move your heart out of its comfort zone (never increasing your heart rate considerably, training it to come back down quickly), then the first time it deals with an increased rate could be in those high-stress situations and bring on that heart attack.  Suck. However, if you are working on a daily basis to exercise your heart, then you’ll be in a much better position to handle situations of high stress – your heart will say “hey, I’ve been here before. Ain’t no thang. (this is assuming that your heart speaks Ebonics).”  I’m not saying you need to go from a couch potato to training like an Olympic sprinter, but you need to challenge yourself every single day to step a little bit more outside of your comfort zone.  Push a little farther, a little faster, a little stronger each time (Cue Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”).

If you are looking to build muscle size and strength, walking into a gym and doing a few lazy sets on a bench press and leg press will not get you results.  Your gains in size and strength will come with the last few reps of an exercise, when your muscles are shaking and you’re struggling to lift the weight for the last time.  You’ll get the best results when you’re sweating like crazy and your muscles are on the verge of failure.  It’s that last rep that you didn’t think you could do, that you’re struggling with, that will produce the results….which is just one more reason why you should be working somebody yelling encouragement and spotting you.

If you’re not sweating, you’re probably not working hard enough.

If you’re going to devote between 45 minutes and an hour in the gym, why not make that time as productive as possible?  The amount of time won’t change; either way it’s 45 minutes away from your house, your family, your kids, whatever.  Why not pack as much stuff into those 45 minutes as possible?  The way I see it, you’d be an idiot not to bust your ass in there. Gerard Butler (who plays King Leonidas in 300) told Men’s Health: “You know that every bead of sweat falling off your head, every weight you’ve pumped — the history of that is all in your eyes.  That was a great thing, to put on that cape and put on that helmet, and not have to think, shit, I should have trained more. Instead, I was standing there feeling like a lion.

That’s how I want to feel every single time I get out of that gym, because I know there’s nothing more I could have done.  Wasted opportunity, wasted talent, and wasted time are three things I can’t stand.  Give it your all every single day, and you will be a better person because of it.  You’ll get better results, have more confidence, feel more productive, have more energy, and probably live much longer too.  All good things!

-Steve

The Correct Number of Reps Per Set in the Gym

I have a lot of people ask me, “How many reps should I do per set?” Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to this question without a little more information.  What you need to determine first is what your goals are.  Some people’s goals are to lose weight, which would require a certain rep range, and others’ goals are to build muscle mass, which requires a different range as well.

What you need to figure out is what you really want to accomplish.  Think about sprinters versus marathon runners.  A sprinter is built for power and speed in short bursts, so their training sessions exist in small increments (10 second races).  A marathon runner is built for endurance, which means their training sessions are much longer (hours at a time).  Working out is no different.  Decide below what you want to get out of a workout, and then read how to get there:

  • Muscular endurance – Your sets should be greater than 12 repetitions.  Aim for a range from 12 to 20 reps.  Obviously you won’t be able to lift heavy amounts of weight for 20 reps, so you’ll be lifting lighter loads.  Also, because you’re going for endurance, you want to decrease the amount of rest between sets.  30 Seconds to a minute, but certainly no more.
  • Muscle Size (Hypertrophy) - This is for you guys looking to build muscle size (hardgainers).  Hypertrophy is essentially the enlarging of cells, which means when it happens to your muscles, they get bigger! Yay.  Now, if this is what you’re looking to accomplish, you want to keep the number of reps per set in the 6 – 12 range.  I find this is best accomplished by doing between 3-5 sets, each time increasing the weight and decreasing the reps. (12 reps at 200 lbs, 10 reps at 220 lbs, 8 reps at 240 lbs, etc.)  Rest time between sets should be short, not as short as for endurance…between 60 and 90 seconds.  I wait 1 minute between sets.
  • Strength and Power – If you’re happy with your size, or you’re training for specific sports and just want to get stronger with more power, this is for you.  Your reps are going to be less than 6 with each set, and an increased amount of time waiting between sets (2-3 minutes).  You’re going to be lifting crazy amounts of weight for sometimes just 1 repetition, so you need to have a spotter and absolutely perfect form or you could severely hurt yourself.   This is how powerlifters train.  Low reps, high weight, long time between sets.

So, now that you have “edumacated” yourself on how your specific goals influence the number of reps per set, you can design your program around this info.  Remember in my article last week talking about plateaus and how your muscles can get “used” to working out and slow down growth?  If that’s something you’re battling, here’s a way to keep them guessing.  Spend a week in a different rep range with different amounts of weight to throw them off.  Generally doing the 12-10-8-6 reps per set routine?  Bump up the weight and do sets of 6-3-1, waiting much longer between sets (and using a spotter).  After a week of mixing it up, go back to your regularly scheduled routine and you’ll be right back on track.

Make sure you know what you want, and then design a plan to get there.

-Steve

Keep the Ball Rolling!

I recently took a personality test that told me I’m a “green-line quick start,” which means I”m easily excited and great with coming up with ideas…and terrible with following through with them.  I often come up with new ideas that excite me more than the ones I’m currently working on, so I’ll just leave the process just half-done.  You should see me play the piano – I know the first 4 lines to probably 50 songs and only two or three songs all the way through.  As I stated in a previous blog about motivation, the reason that gets you started exercising might not be the same thing that keeps you exercising, and I’m hitting that point in my new routine right now.

Before I started this fitness blog, I started probably three blogs that quickly faded out after a few weeks.  The fact that I’ve written in this blog nearly every weekday for the past three months is a surprise even to myself.  I think one of the main reasons that I’ve stuck with it is because this is something I truly feel passionate about, and I’m so excited to impact people’s lives and make this world a better place.  I realize there are probably millions of blogs about fitness.  I’m not only writing this blog for you guys, but for myself as well.  It’s easier to give up when you’re the only one accountable.  However, when I know that over 1000 unique visitors have read this blog in the past 30 days, I need to make sure I practice what I preach.  Why would you guys listen to me if I’m skipping my routine or diet every time I’m too tired or lazy?   That’s crap, and you deserve better.

This week, I spent three days up in Augusta, GA for a company retreat.  Even though the house was filled with co-workers who don’t share my passion with fitness, I made sure I did everything in my power to stay on the right track.  I even brought a small blender and a Tupperware container full of my meal replacement powder so I could make sure I was getting enough calories, carbs, and protein every day.  I got a few funny looks from the other people in the house when I set up my blender a few times a day, but it didn’t bother me.  I made a promise to myself, to this blog, and to you guys to stay consistent with my fitness routine and my diet, no matter where I am or what I’m doing.

It’s Friday morning, and I’m exhausted. If you’ve seen the latest New Balance ad campaign, running is compared to a love/hate relationship; there are always warm comfy sheets begging you to go back to sleep instead of getting up and running.  I’m the same way with lifting weights.  Every morning I know all it takes is one extra “maybe just today” and my head will hit that pillow faster than Rosie O’Donnell hits a Chinese buffet line.

If it was just for me, I’d probably consider skipping today’s workout.  However, as soon as I post this article I’ll be heading to the gym because I don’t want to let down this site or the people that read it.  If you’re exercising and having trouble staying motivated, find a way to make yourself accountable.  Tell your friend Rambo that you’ll pay him five dollars for every workout you skip.  I have some great ideas for Nerd Fitness 2.0 and how we’ll all be able to help keep each other motivated.  This should all happen by the end of the summer, but I’m hoping I can get it going much sooner than that.

I now have all the motivation I need.  See you in the gym.

-Steve

Why Cheating on Your Diet Could Backfire

gob

Those diet pills are tricks...I mean illusions!

Everybody makes the decision two weeks before Spring Break (GOB’s favorite holiday on Arrested Development) to lose 20 pounds or they get gym memberships on January 1st and expect to drop three pant sizes in a week. Society, commercials, magazines, and every diet product you’ve ever seen tells you how quickly you can lose insane amounts of weight!  Just buy their product and it’ll happen!  Yippee!

Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it can’t happen quickly. Why?  Because your body won’t let you.  If you go way back to our days as cavemen, food wasn’t always as abundant as it is today (which would explain two thirds of the country being overweight).  Back then food might show up one day and be gone the next.  Because of this uncertainty, our bodies are conditioned to store and save as many of the nutrients from everything we eat in times of starvation.  Now, our metabolism doesn’t have eyes and we can’t tell it that we’re dieting so when food gets scarce (when you try to drastically cut your calorie intake) it goes into starvation mode [cue evil music].

What is starvation mode, you ask? Your body/metabolism knows that it can get away with a certain amount of weight loss per week (about 1% of your body weight).  If you drop big weight early and really cut caloric intake, your stomach thinks there’s a scarcity of food and you’re in starvation mode.  Because of that, our body will hold onto every meal like it’s the last meal for a while…which sucks for two reasons:

  • You’ll stop losing weight or lose it very slowly…very frustrating.
  • Two, your metabolism will slow down big time.  When you start to eat normally again, it will take a while for your metabolism to go back to normal, so it will hold onto more of that food than before and you’ll actually gain weight. Fail.

Remember this: if you try to kick-start a diet by starving yourself, it will work for maybe a week or two, but then the weight loss will come to a screeching halt and you’ll gain back everything you lost when you go back to eating normally.  Your other option is to chop off one of your legs.  There’s 50 pounds right there.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you can’t expect to lose 50lbs in a month.  Be smart in your decisions, set realistic goals, and take it one day at a time.

-Steve

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