The Search for the Ultimate Athlete

I stumbled across this article over on that brought my attention to the “Search for the Ultimate Athlete.

Picture 1Essentially, it’s a massive competition in Oregon next June, featuring 24 competitors (male and female) competing in 20 different sports to determine who is the best overall athlete IN THE WORLD (or something like that).  Registration and preliminary rounds start in a few weeks.  Honestly, I’m both excited to see how it pans out and also skeptical.  Sure, the world’s best athlete is probably already making millions of dollars and won’t risk his career for this, but there will still be twenty-four elite athletes who probably aren’t great at one individual sport but pretty darn good at a whole bunch of them.

I started thinking about some of the best athletes that I know and whether or not they’d do well in this competition.  This is all pure speculation, mostly because I would guess these guys have far better things to do than compete in such a tournament:

lebron-jamesLebron James – Could possibly end up as the best ever to play the game of basketball (he’s gotta start winning some Championships first though).  What is certain is that he’s one of the most gifted athletes this world has ever seen.  Lebron is 6’8″, 250 lbs, built like a freight train, can jump over tall buildings in a single bound, and run a 40 yard dash in 2 seconds.  Okay the last two are a lie, but there’s no doubting how strong, powerful, and athletic he is.  Many scouts believe that had he continued to play football instead of basketball,  Lebron would be one of the NFL’s best wide receivers today.

kelly_slater_photoshoot_-3642Kelly Slater – 9-time world champion surfer, and scratch golfer.  Ever tried surfing? you spend the entire time fighting Mother Nature, and she is NOT happy about it.  By the end of a short surf session your arms are burning, your lungs are filled with water, and your shoulders are ready to fall off.  If there are any games that require precision and accuracy like golf in this competition along with others that require strength and endurance, Kelly could turn some heads.

3209-StPierreMiller067UFC52Georges St. Pierre - MMA fighter from Canada – One of the most athletically gifted and technically perfect athletes.  Want to know how hard it is to be an MMA fighter?  Former NFL player Marcus Jones is currently competing on the TV show “the ultimate fighter,” and he managed to get sick during the last episode from the intense workouts that MMA requires.  “Afterward, he noted that he never had to work that hard in the NFL.”  If GSP can make an MMA fight look easy (and he does), then I’d love to see what he can do with any other competition.

Picture 3Makoto Nagano – One of the only two people to ever complete Ninja Warrior, one of my favorite television shows.  If you aren’t familiar with the show, check it out on G4TV, you won’t regret it.  Nagano is getting older and is only 5’3″ tall, which would lead me to believe that he could struggle with some of the challenges when competing with taller athletes.  However, I’ve seen him do some absolutely amazing things, and he’s one of the strongest mof’s I’ve ever seen.  His back, arm, and forearm strength is beyond insane.

chucknorrisChuck Norris – has counted to infinity, twice.  Also, he can sneeze with his eyes open.

Now, these are all hypothetical choices, and I would almost bet money that none of these guys end up on the show.  Maybe if this first year competition becomes an annual, prestigious event will it start to attract truly some of the world’s greatest athletes.

Either way, I’m at least intrigued and I can’t wait to see what happens.  Who are some of your favorite athletes, and how do you think they’d fare in this type of environment?


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Girls of Nerd Fitness

Sorry dudes, this post has absolutely nothing to do with a some hot chick wearing nothing but an Xbox Live headset…That’s coming tomorrow (I’m lying).

screaming-girl-gamerI initially started this site to help out guys like me: I can certainly relate, I’ve had the same successes and failures you have, and I want to help.   However, as the site has grown I’ve begin to receive more and more emails from female readers, and I think that’s awesome.  Girls can be nerds too, which means there’s hope out there for you guys looking to find somebody with similar interests.  To quote my favorite movie of all time (Shawshank Redemption), “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things.  And no good thing ever dies.”  I realize this is quote is a little over dramatic for a post on nerds, but I will take any opportunity I can get to quote that movie.

Anyhoo, I just wanted to say hello to all of you lady readers out there, and address a few of the questions and comments I’ve been getting lately:

  • I just want to “tone up.” Unfortunately, the term “toning up” is a load of crap.  To make things simple, you have your bones, your muscle, and your fat.  It’s the ratio of muscle and fat that gives you definition (that some people call “tone”).  You could have washboard abs and really cut arms, but if your body fat percentage is above a certain amount, you’ll have a muffin top around your waist and flabby arms.  You can’t spot remove fat, it comes off from ALL over your body.  Diet is 90% of the battle (whether you’re trying to build muscle or lose tons of weight), so concentrate on changing your diet (slowly but surely) and you’ll start to see that definition.  Cut out the bad carbs (stick with fruits, vegetables, lean meats, beans, and nuts).
  • I don’t want to lift weights because I’ll get bulky. This is another one of those myths that keep girls on the treadmills and out of the free weights section.  Look, you don’t realize how much you have to lift to look bulky.  Unless you’re deadlifting 400 lbs and taking steroids I can almost guarantee ‘bulk’ will never be a problem.  Try circuit training to build muscle and burn fat. Your other option is starving yourself, spending 3 hours on a treadmill, and end up looking like one of the Olsen twins.  Disgusting.  Want legs like Jessica Biel or Jessica Alba?  Start doing some squats!
  • I’m scare to use the free weights, so I’ll stick with the machines – You can get a much better and safer workout using free weights, so suck it up and walk over there.  Don’t worry, most of the guys there are too busy checking themselves out to even bother looking at you.  Read here why free weights are so much better than machines.  Free weights and body weight exercises are your friend (body weight exercises here).
  • I just want to lose weight so I do cardio – Hopping on the treadmill at 4.5 mph for 90 minutes will certainly burn calories, but you can get better results when you mix things up – you’ll have more fun too.  Take a spinning class, jump rope, lift weights, run sprints outside with your dog, play Ultimate Frisbee (always a shortage of girls for this).  Mix it up and you’ll be more well-rounded (not literally).

I’m looking for some inspiring stories.  Have you lost a bunch of weight?  Changed your life and now run marathons?  Even if it’s just a small victory, I’d love to hear about it and possibly share it with the rest of the Nerd Fitness world.  If you overcame a big struggle or obstacle, know that there are tons of others out there like who you are still struggling; help them by passing on your story.  Email me at [email protected] or leave your story in the comments and let’s get the ball rolling.


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How Badly Do You Want It?

I read “Some Thoughts on Hard Work” over on the World’s Strongest Librarian the other day (fantastic blog by the way, check it out).

funny-pictures-cat-does-not-work-hardIt really got me thinking about life and fitness.  There are so many varying levels of ‘success’ and ‘happiness’ depending on your goals and how much time you can dedicate to achieving them.  Fitness, a particular video game, your job, whatever…you get to decide what you want to accomplish – the sky is the limit.  You also get to decide how hard you’re willing to get what you want.

If you’re 15 pounds overweight, you can just be “pretty good” for most of the time, work out occasionally, eat right for most of the week, and you can get to a satisfactory level of fitness rather quickly.  However, if you want to look like Gerard Butler or Ryan Reynolds, you’re going to need to dedicate your life for a considerable amount of time to get there.  If you want to win Ninja Warrior, you’re going to have to drop everything you’re doing and start hanging out with Makoto Nagano, my hero and one of only 2 guys out of thousands to EVER complete the obstacle course.

There’s no magic bullet, no “Hawaii chair” that will give you six pack abs, no acai-berry pill that will cause you to drop 30 pounds. It takes hard work, which is why 2/3rds of the country is overweight and new infomercials show up daily to announce the next get-fit-quick solution.  Essentially we have a country full of people who want to look great but are either too lazy or too busy (a cop out) to put in the time to get there.  Don’t be one of those people.  Join the side where self-accountability and pride reign supreme.  You want to feel better about yourself, you want to be around to see your great-grandchildren grow up, and you are willing to work for it.

You need to decide what you’re after, and how you’re going to get there.

Every time I go into my gym I see people half-assing it on a treadmill, doing the same exercises with the same weights, and walking out of there with a smile on their face and not a drop of sweat on them.  As they say in Office Space, “what exactly would you say…YOU DO HERE?” If you’re serious about bettering yourself as a person and getting stronger and healthier, you should be walking into that gym with a clear cut game plan and walking out of there with a shirt drenched in sweat and wobbly legs from pushing yourself to the limit.  I don’t care if you’re 300 pounds overweight and your limit is walking a quarter of a mile.  That’s FINE!  Whatever your limit is, whatever your comfort zone is, find a way to go 1% farther, lift 1% more, and move 1% faster each time. You’ll soon find your comfort zone and level of strength is so much more than it used to be because you held yourself accountable and stayed motivated.

Let’s say you just accomplished a big goal of yours.  Is THAT the time to get complacent?  Nope.  Give yourself a pat on the back, and then find a way to reach even further.


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What’s Your Game Plan?

game_planWhat’s your game plan for today?

What are you going to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?  If you’re going to the gym, which exercises are you going to do, how much are you going to lift, and how many times are you going to lift it?  Have a plan sucka!


I know in my experience, when I keep track of things (both with my diet and my exercises), I see better results and I’m pretty damn sure this isn’t a coincidence.  Tyler of (who I interviewed here), lost 4.5 pounds last week after only losing 2 pounds in the previous month.  His theory on what happened:

“The week I resume counting calories is the same week I reach well into the 220s.  Coincidence?  I think not.  I’ve been counting calories for the last few days and have had an extremely clean diet (because of it?).”

I will bet a million bucks (if I had a million bucks) that there is a direct correlation between Tyler’s weight loss success and his decision to keep track of everything he ate.  Why does this happen?  You suddenly feel more responsible and accountable for what you put in your mouth.  It hurts when you have to write down 4 Krispie Kreme donuts, 3 snickers, two big macs, and an entire bag of double stuf Oreos.

Write down what you’re doing! If you’ve read my “3 important equations for fitness” article, you know that a 500 calorie daily deficit will result in a 1-pound weight loss per week.  Keep track of what you eat with a site like Daily Burn (free account): as you input your food, it keeps track of how many carbs, grams of protein, and grams of fat you’ve consumed.  Once you put in your height, weight, and goal weight, it can even tell you how many calories (approximately) you should be eating and when you’ll hit your target.

Daily Burn has certainly helped me get much better results when I track my food intake; I recommend you do the same.  It’s free, easy, and they even have an iPhone app that is supposedly pretty sweet (anybody tried the app yet?)


I’d guess less than a third of the people in a gym have any idea what they’re doing or what their goals are.  They wander around like schmoes, picking various machines and doing a quick set or walking in and doing what they always do with the same few things at the same level of resistance.

Remember: “appearance is a consequence of fitness.” Every time you walk in that gym, you should know exactly what to expect out of your body.  If you could squat 185, try for 190 today.  If you did 5 pull ups, go for 6.  If you  walk/jogged a mile in 11 minutes, go for 10:50 this time.  When you keep track of everything you’ve done, you know exactly what you need to accomplish the next time you’re in the gym.  When you’re struggling with that last pull up or push up and you know just one more is a personal best, I guarantee you’re going to bust your ass to get there.  Secondly, when you have that game plan you don’t waste time in there; you know what you need to do, you do it, and then you get the hell out of there.

I have to recommend Daily Burn to keep track of your workouts as well. You can input your exact exercises, routines, sets, reps, and total weight.  It tracks them so you know what you did last time.  I’m on Daily Burn (and I’ll admit, I’ve been slacking on tracking things and I DEFINITELY know I haven’t been getting the most out of my diet or workout because of it).

Some tips:

  • If you don’t have an iPhone, take a piece of paper and pen with you to the gym. Write down exactly what you did, and then put it into Daily Burn when you get home.  I’ve tried to remember everything and it always gets lost in the shuffle by the end of the routine.  Write it down, then type it in.
  • I’ve found that the Daily Burn doesn’t line up exactly with a Paleo Diet (if that’s your thing) when it comes to their recommendation of calories and nutrients.  Luckily, they allow you to easily adjust your percentages of carbs, proteins, and fats.
  • If you’ve never kept track of your food, try it for a week. Make it a habit by adding it to your bookmark tool bar and simply typing in your food every time you eat it.  I’d guess most of you have desk jobs so this shouldn’t be too difficult.  You’ll be surprised at your results simply by keeping track of your food.  It’s a pain in the ass, sure.  But it absolutely works.

Be my gym buddy on Daily Burnwe can keep each other accountable.


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How to Do a Perfect Dip (No Tobacco Required)

So you’re looking to build up your muscles, and you’ve learned how great it is to train with compound exercises.  Rather than isolate your chest for 5 exercises, your shoulders for 5 exercises, and triceps for 5 exercises, why not pick a few that work all three at the same time!  One such exercise is the Dip.

Now, a bodyweight dip requires you to have a pretty good base level of strength throughout your body, because you’re going to be lifting up your whole body up and down.  Yeah, the dips I’m talking about require you to grab two parallel bars, hoist yourself up, and then lower your entire body by bending your elbows.  I don’t recommend the dips where you put your feet up on something in front of you because it puts your arms and shoulders in a really weird angle and you’re just asking for injury.  So, today’s exercise is just the dips where you’re supporting your whole body weight below you.

Okay so here is what you do:

  • First of all, make sure you can do a dip. Don’t hop up there and then lower yourself unless you’re fairly confident you can get through at least one of these things.  We can’t have you tearing any muscles or falling on somebody, because that would suck ass.
  • Grab the parallel bars, and hoist yourself up. At this point look straight ahead, and contract your stomach muscles (just like you do when you do squats and deadlifts).  If you’re keeping your abs tight for all of these exercises, you’ll never have to do a crunch again and you’ll still have washboard abs.
  • Cross your legs and bend your knees if you like (so your feet are out behind you), for stability purposes, but keep your head up and look straight ahead.
  • Keeping your elbows at your side, lower yourself until your triceps are parallel to the floor. A lot of websites will recommend you go past parallel, but I think this puts too much strain on your shoulders at a weird angle and can cause injury/discomfort.  I only go down to parallel and haven’t had any issues, so I’d recommend the same.
  • Once you hit parallel, explode back up until JUST before you’re able to lock your elbows. By not locking your elbows, you keep the tension in your muscles and don’t jack up your joints.  w00t.
  • Now do another one.  And then another!

Those are dips.  By keeping your elbows as tight as possible, keep your abs tights, and keep your body in balance as you go up and down.

Dips Video

Some extra tips:

  • Don’t swing - this goes for practically every exercise.  If you start swinging your body as you go up and down, you take the emphasis off the muscles you’re actually trying to work.
  • Don’t go down past parallel - This is a point of controversy with some, but for me I’d rather not risk it.  A few months back I was teaching a client how to do dips and this out of shape guy came over to tell us that we need to be going all the way down to the floor (essentially lowering our triceps 30 degrees past parallel).  I thanked the man for his input, then went back to doing them my way.
  • Don’t flair out your elbows if you can avoid it. The more “out” your elbows are, the more emphasis on your chest.  Elbows tight = emphasis on shoulders and triceps.
  • Don’t settle for cheap substitutes – don’t use dip machines or other isolation tricep machines – These don’t recruit any of your stabilizer muscles, put your body at weird angles, and don’t give you full results.  Stick with bodyweight dips!

Now, once you can do 3 sets of 15 dips no problem, you have a few options to ramp up the difficulty:

  • Add weight – picking up a dumbbell between your feet, wearing a weighted backpack, or wearing a weight belt with some weight plates hanging off it.  At one point last year I was doing dips with a 60 pound dumbbell between my feet but it got too difficult to carry it with my feet, and it started to bother my shoulders.  I’d recommend a weight belt or backpack if you’re going to do dips with heavy weight.
  • Your other option, and the better option in my opinion - GO SLOW – keep your abs tight, and lower yourself ridiculously slowly.  Your body will have to recruit every muscle in your chest, shoulders, and triceps (including all stabilizer muscles) to keep your body under control.  Personally, I would do dips without weight after you’ve already done an exercise like Incline Dumbbell Presses.  Rather than add weight, do them slowly and safely.

There you have it: a great bodyweight exercise that will have your triceps popping out in no time (provided there isn’t too much body fat covering them).  If you have limited time in the gym or at your house, you can work out every muscle in your body with these three exercises:

Look at that, in just three exercises you’ve done a complete full body workout.  Crank that workout out in 20 minutes, and then go play some Halo.


5 Gym Species You Want to Punch in the Face

For those of you who have gym memberships, I’d thought we’d have some fun with the species that occupy the Gyminal Kingdom (see what I did there?).  I’ve probably been a member at eight or nine different gyms, and the stereotypes are the same everywhere.  I almost feel sorry for them…but I’d rather make fun of them here in the blog because I can!  Internet FTW.

meathead1) Meatheadius Narcissium - This guy makes sure every exercise is in front of a mirror or audience. In between sets he’s checking himself out, checking to make he looks really good.  This dude LOVES himself.  Generally you can find him doing one of these three exercises: bench presses, bicep curls, or sit ups, because all he really cares about is his chest, biceps, and abs, which are probably comically oversized at this point.  You’d like to make fun of him to his face, but he’s so dis-proportioned that you don’t know where to begin… and he could probably pummel you because he also probably has a serious case of roid rage buildling up.  Put the guns away, Chief.

wind-up-teeth2) Talkium-Way-TOO-Muchus - These guys usually come in pairs. They sit down on a weight bench or popular machine and then spend 15 effing minutes in between each set talking about the stupidest **** ever.  When you walk over and ask if they’re done (because it looks like they are), they’ll say “oh, we still have 8 sets left.”  Shut your mouth Jabroni, do your exercises, and get the hell out of there.  If you’re gonna chat up a storm, do it AFTER you’re done lifting or in between exercises so you’re not holding up everybody else.  Nobody cares who won Dancing with Stars the other night either.

knowitall_header3) Expertum Incorrectus - The know-it-all.  He goes around and tells everybody what they’re doing wrong, and how he can do it better.  These guys are the most dangerous if you’re not careful, because if I had to bet my life savings on it I’d guess they’re probably wrong.  Look in a gym, and you’ll see at least half the people in there doing exercises improperly.  I’ve had people tell me how to do squats (which screwed up my back when I took their advice), how to do dips (which would have destroyed my shoulder had I listened to them), and pretty much every other exercise out there.  Everyone’s a critic, everybody thinks they know what’s best for you, and everybody is quick to pass along information, no matter how wrong it is.  Stick to your guns, do your research, and ask a professional at the club if you have a question…although many trainers don’t know what they’re doing either.

shrek4) Ogre-Personificus – This is the gym equivalent of the attention whore.  Listen, I know sometimes you need to let out a grunt when you’re lifting a sh**-load of weight, but does it really need to be loud enough for everybody in the gym to hear it?   You can usually find these guys lifting weights and almost yelling between each rep, followed by them loudly dropping their weights on the floor and then walking around like William Wallace.  We get it Braveheart, you’re the man.  As long as you’re not dropping weights on your face because of this guy, he’s almost funny enough to watch.

Mullet terrorist5) Sweatpantus Creepiatum  – This is the guy in sweatpants in the back of the yoga room who doesn’t actually bother doing the stretches, the guy who sees a girl on a treadmill and starts walking right next to her even though there are 15 others open, and the guy who spends most of his time staring and ogling rather than exercising.  Dude, you’re creeping everybody out.  No you shouldn’t go up to her and tell her how many arm curls you can do (it’s a DEEP BURN, as Ron Burgundy would say).  You shouldn’t even stalk her when she comes out of the locker room.  She’s there to exercise, which is why YOU should be there, so do your thing and let her do hers.  There’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it, and you’re definitely not doing it right.

fat spandexSpandexa Unflatterium (honorable mention)- the girl in the spandex and sports bra who really shouldn’t be wearing stuff like that out in public.  Ladies, we’re happy that you’re comfortable in your own body, but don’t make us be comfortable with it too.  I guess the male equivalent would be Homer Simpson walking around in booty shorts.  Wear whats comfortable, but do it within reason.  I have a LOT of respect for a bigger person in the gym exercising trying to get better, but be appropriate about it!

Now, these dudes (and girl) are probably the reason many of you avoid gyms in the first place…unless you’re one of these species.  If that’s the case, STOP IT.  Now, I’ve learned to ignore these people by listening to my iPod, keeping my head down, and getting in and out of the gym as quickly as possible.  I recommend you do the same, but feel free to laugh at these people if you need a pick-me-up.  After all, if we can’t laugh at ourselves, then we should probably laugh at others.  That’s a joke, by the way.

Who am I not making fun of that I should be?  Who got left out?


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What If It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie?

Picture 1“If the members of the American medical establishment were to have a collective find-yourself-standing-naked-in-Times-Square-type nightmare, this might be it.”

So begins one of the most thought-provoking articles I have read in a long time.  Written by Gary Taube, “What If It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie” was featured in the New York Times back in 2002 and has been causing all kinds of controversy ever since.  Today’s post is extremely short because I want you to read this article.  That’s right, I’m giving you homework.  Read it at work, read it at home, print it out and read it on the toilet, whatever floats your boat.

Being the skeptic that I am, I searched for responses that discredit Taubes.  I immediately found Michael Fumento’s rebuttal to this article here, followed by Gary’s rebuttal to the rebuttal here, and then Fumento’s rebuttal of the rebuttal to the rebuttal.  Personally, I think we should just put Taubes and Fumento in a steel cage and let them duke it out.  Now it’s your turn: I’d love to hear your thoughts on the article and whether you think Gary is absolutely correct, a complete wackjob, or somewhere in between.

I’ll post my complete thoughts on this back-and-forth debate in the comments section at the end of the day (I’ll be away from a computer for the whole day), but I want to hear from you guys before I jump into the fray.


PS – Gary has written a book that details this theory more elaborately: Good Calories, Bad Calories.

Exercise Every Muscle in Your Body in 15 Minutes

I went to the gym on Sunday night and I failed to realize that the gym closes really early on that day.  I literally had 20 minutes in the gym before they turned off all the lights, so I put together a quick routine to work out every single muscle in my body.  If you don’t have a gym membership, read the end of this post for the 15-minute bodyweight workout.  See that? Everybody wins!

weight_lifting_bodybuilding_cartoon_squat_aa_ezrSquats- I have a love/hate relationship with squats.  Most of the time I hate them, but I love how I feel afterward.  My legs hate squats, but they love it when I can lift even more weight the next time.  Plus, when you do squats with perfect form, you work every muscle in your leg, lower back, AND your abs.  After a quick 2 minute warm-up (rapid fire jumping jacks to get my heart racing and muscles warm), I did three sets of Squats (reps of 10, 8, 6) waiting one minute between sets.  Each time I added weight to the bar.  To read about perfect squats and why you need to do them, read my squats article here.

Incline dumbbell press – Grab a weightlifting bench, and set the angle at 45 degrees or so.  Grab two dumbbells, and press them up above your head as if you were doing an incline benchpress with a barbell.  Three sets of 12, 10, 8 (increasing weight, one minute between sets).  This exercise works your chest, shoulders, and triceps.  Concentrate on perfect form, and don’t lower your upper arms past parallel (to the floor).  Bring your hands in together at the top so you almost clink the two dumbbells together.

brown_cat_pull_upsPull ups and chin ups – Find a bar, grab it with either an overhand or underhand grip, and pull yourself up.  Overhand grip (palms away from you) will work your back more than your biceps, and an underhand grip (palms facing you) will work your biceps more than your back.  Do a set of overhand grip pull ups until exhaustion, wait a minute, do another set of overhand grip pull ups until exhaustion, wait a minute, then do a set of underhand chin ups until exhaustion.  Make sure you go all the way down (just before locking out your arms), and get way above the bar on the top, or it doesn’t count!  If you can’t do a full pull up yet, read this article (with video) on how to build up to them.

Want to burn even more fat while you’re at it? Do this whole routine as a giant circuit (you can ready more about circuit training here).  Keep the weight the same for each set, but go in this order:

  • Squats – 12 reps
  • Incline Chest Press – 12 reps
  • Pull ups – as many as you can.
  • 30 jumping jacks

Do this cycle 3 times, without stopping.  15 minutes, build muscle and burn fat.  Not too shabby!

No Gym? Do body-weight squats or lunges (with your hands behind your head, prisoner style), and then do decline push ups (with your feet up on your bed or a chair or something).  Stick with regular pull ups.   For a more accurate description on how to do these exercises, read my article on body weight exercises, “No Gym? No Problem!

Pretty damn simple, pretty damn effective.


Can A Diet Kill You?

Who really has our best interests in mind?

Picture 1To be honest with you, I don’t know.  This post is mostly diet, and not much “nerd,” but I still think it’s important.  I’m not a dietitian and I don’t have my doctorate in food and physiology studies, I’m just a guy who’s trying to be as healthy as possible.  Most of you know that I’ve done a fair amount of reading on The Paleo Diet recently and even managed to eat primal for the entirety of yesterday.  Quite the departure from my “healthy” diet a month ago.

A few days back, Tim Ferriss (of the 4 Hour Work Week) wrote a post entitled, “7 Reasons to Eat More Saturated Fat,” and there are currently 271 comments on it.  I’m pretty sure this post was written to draw attention and provoke debate (one of Tim’s strengths), and that’s exactly what has happened.  Many comments are from Vegans or vegetarians berating Tim for promoting a ‘slaughter’ lifestyle, while others are making fun of the Vegans for allegedly depriving their body of necessary nutrients.  Both sides cite “extensive research” disproving the others’ lifestyle, and both are convinced the others’ diet is going to kill them.  Just reading the first 50 comments is enough to make your head spin.

I found this scathing review of the Paleo Diet, written by Sally Fallon, who happens to be the author of her OWN diet book, Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. Personally, I think her review comes across as a jealous tirade that misses the point and is really out to promote her own agenda.  With all of this back and forth it seems like everybody is out only to further their own career or sell their next book or cause a huge controversy.  In fact, a lot of the “studies” are funded by food companies who just want to promote their own side of things.  How many lobbyists from various companies have the ear of the FDA?  It’s crazy!

Who the eff do we trust? Is there a bullsh** tester out there? I mean, here’s a clip from the Today Show where a USA Today dietitian recommended Taco Bell, Burger King, and KFC.  COME ON.  I’ve done as much reading on various diets since seriously getting into fitness a few years back, and I’m still overwhelmed by the amount of stuff that both proves or disproves everything else.  Is the Paleo Diet the healthiest lifestyle?  What about Japan’s non-paleo rice-based diet?  What other factors come into play?

I think this is one of those problems that will never have a 100% factual solution. The human body is such a complex piece of machinery that we’ll never really be able to control every variable to test out specific, minute options.  With genetics, quality of air, stress, quality of water, and quality of life playing such a big role in our lives, I don’t think we’ll ever really know the exact optimal diet…which is fine, because life will go on.

With all sides of this diet war slinging propaganda and stories at one another, it’s tough to see clearly.  However, I think there are a few truths that we CAN trust.  I found this quote by Michael Pollan to be one of the most inspirational and rational mottos to live by:

“Eat food, not too much. Mostly plants.”

Sounds simple, right?  It’s because it is.  Now, food is a general term, but Michael means ACTUAL food.  Not food born in a lab, but food grown from the earth.  Fruits, vegetables, and healthy meats.  Too much of anything is generally detrimental to your life, so consume in moderation.  If you’re eating mostly natural fruits and vegetables, cutting out junk food and processed sugar, you’re going to be healthy.

Moving forward, I’m going to keep reading, keep studying, and keep learning. I won’t go to one extreme (all meat!) or the other (Vegan), but find a healthy moderation (which seems to line up nicely with the Paleo diet, maybe with a few modifications).

You’re probably more confused now than ever, but hopefully this encourages you to question what you read, and be smart with your decisions.


Why I Ate Chicken For Breakfast

For the first time in my life, I ate chicken for breakfast this morning.

Picture 2Yeah, it was a little weird.  After years of cereal, bagels, muffins, donuts, and/or high-calorie meal replacement shakes for breakfast, I’m working on this whole Paleo/Primal diet thing, (which I wrote about recently).  I think it’s going to be a gradual transition from my old diet to a new one, but I’m pretty excited about it.  I’ve spent the past four years of my life stuffing my face with 3500 calories a day, drinking expensive shakes, shoveling pounds of pasta and very few fruits or vegetables into my mouth.  It was exhausting, expensive, and frustrating having to eat every 2 hours.

Since I started reading the Paleo Diet book and The Primal Blueprint, I’ve made a few realizations about my diet that I’m changing.   I never realized how truly detrimental and pervasive sugar is.  It’s in freaking everything!  Yeah, even the “healthy” stuff.  Take a look at a loaf of “100% whole wheat bread” and you’ll probably find High Fructose Corn Syrup as one of the top five ingredients.  I know when I went to the store last night it was on the whole wheat bread I used to eat.

This is a big change for me: instead of trying to bulk up, I’m going trim down while building muscle and see where that leaves me.  Rather than shoveling bad food into my mouth to put on weight, I’m going to cut as much processed food, simple carbs, and sugar from my diet during the week.  That means no more spaghetti and PB sandwiches, two things I’ve eaten almost every day since I was five.  In place of that, I’m going to stick with lean meats, LOTS of chicken, TONS of asparagus, and salads.  I’ve been eating like a little kid forever, and I think it’s time to finally expand my food horizons and grow up a bit.  I think I bought like  six kinds of vegetables at the store last night – the old me didn’t even know six kinds of vegetables existed.

So what’s my plan now? As of this morning I weigh 177 lbs, and my body fat percentage is right around 9%.  It was at 11% a few weeks back before adjusting my diet, so I can tell it’s already working.  I have a hunch I’ll actually look bigger at 175 with 6% BF compared to 185 at 11%.  Now, as I make my adjustment to a healthier diet, I do have some concerns:

  • I’m going to get bored really quickly. If I eat chicken for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, things are going to get old quickly.  Steaks are expensive, but now that I’m not buying tubs of supplements and 4 gallons of milk a week, it might actually fit into my budget.  I’m going to have to start eating fish at some point, and this scares me because I’m not a fan at all.  Any recommendations on the best fish to start out with would be helpful.
  • I’m going to lose a LOT of weight. Cutting out most carbs like breads, rice, and pasta are going to severely drop my calorie count.  A big serving of rice can have 15-20 times the number of calories of a big serving of asparagus.  This is where walnuts, almonds, and occasionally oatmeal will come in handy, but for a guy trying to gain/maintain weight, this is going to be tough.
  • I won’t have enough energy to get through the day and do my workouts - I’ve already noticed that my last few work outs haven’t been as good because I’ve had less energy going into them.  Luckily I just picked up The Paleo Diet for Athletes, and I’ll be reading that on my flight out to Colorado this weekend.  This book deals with athletes on the paleo diet and how they eat before and after exercising to maintain energy and build muscle.  Full review coming soon.
  • Not enough Calcium - now that I’m not chugging Milk by the gallon, I’m worried I’m just not going to get enough calcium and my bones will suffer (no not my bones!).  Luckily, the author of the Paleo Diet, Loren Cordain, addresses this exact issue here.  I’m certainly not giving up dairy completely, but it will be at a pretty large departure from where I was at a month ago.

We’ll see how this goes.  I plan on sticking with the plan for the next two weeks and then reevaluating.  I still plan on drinking a few beers, eating un-primal, playing bags (cornhole, corntoss, whatever you want to call it), and watching football on the weekends (read yesterday’s post), so that means I need to be super dedicated during the week.  I’m going to keep having fun, just adjust my diet slightly and see where it takes me.

Why am I doing this? Some people (my mom included) have said “what’s wrong with how you look now?”  Really, I like how I look now, I’m just interested to see how strong I can get and where I can get to in terms of efficiency (body fat percentage).  Remember, “appearance is a consequence of fitness.”  If this makes me healthier, function better in the gym,  have more energy, and makes me look good, why the hell wouldn’t I try it?

I’ll keep everybody informed on how things go over the next few weeks, but I promise I won’t dominate this blog with just ALL PALEO ALL THE TIME stuff.  Everybody is at different stages in their lives, careers, and levels of fitness and diet, and I’ll keep that in mind with my writing.

And here we….go!


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