Back in Action

I’m back!

After a week at home on Cape Cod, doing almost nothing for the entire time, I’m back in Atlanta and ready to get back into my routine.  I didn’t have a gym membership up there and I didn’t feel like paying 15 bucks for a single-day pass at the gym in town (WHICH IS RIDICULOUS), so I decided I’d take a week off from lifting weights and let my muscles go on vacation as well.  Let’s start things off with the two major developments that came out of my trip back home:

The Paleo Diet

grokI read Loren Cordain’s “The Paleo Diet” on my plane ride home.  After reading about so many benefits of this diet, I decided that I’m going to give it a shot (after another week of food preparation and research on the diet).  Tomorrow’s post will try to poke holes in the Paleo Diet, as I scour the internet and medical journals for reasons to go against the diet.  The most scathing review I found of Cordain’s book is here, but I’m not wholly convinced of the critiquing author’s issues with the diet.  More research is necessary.

Personally, my concerns are that as somebody who’s trying to build muscle mass, the Paleo Diet will actually cause me to lose weight, the opposite of what I want.  I know the weight I’ll be losing is fat, which isn’t a bad thing, so once I start the diet I’ll take both pictures and measurements before and after to quantify my results.  Next, I’m a really picky eater which means I’ll be struggling to find enough variation in my meals to stay motivated on this diet.  However, this could also work out really well for me, forcing me to try all kinds of new, paleo-approved foods.  Lastly, I plan on researching the effect of the Paleo Diet on life expectancy, considering Japan has one of the highest life expectancies in the World and a typical Japanese diet is loaded with rice, a Paleo no-no.

I placed an order this afternoon for Loren Cordain’s follow up book, “The Paleo Diet for Athletes,” along with Mark Sisson’s “The Primal Blueprint” and I’ll have reviews up here on the site when I finish them.  Although I don’t think I’ll ever be able to go completely Paleo (come on, my favorite food is Chicken Parm), I’m very interested to see how my body deals with this new diet.  Cutting out dairy and grains is going to be difficult, but I can’t promote something on this site unless my full support is behind it, so I’ll be taking the plunge when ready.  I expect to eventually find a happy balance between the Paleo diet and moderate consumption of whole grains, oatmeal, skim milk, etc.  We’ll see!

Vibram Five Fingers

vibram2My friend Saint, who will be embarking on this Paleo-Diet trial with me in a week or two, is one step ahead of me in the caveman lifestyle: he owns Vibram 5-finger shoes, and I’m jealous as hell.  For those of you who don’t know, Vibram Five Fingers were Time Magazine’s 2007 invention of the year.  Everybody who I know who owns a pair swears by them.  Tim Ferriss, Life-Hacker and Author of the 4-Hour Workweek, wrote a fantastic piece on the shoes that really opened my eyes to the world of barefoot running.  If you have 10 minutes, make sure you read the article, because it will probably make you want to buy a pair as well.  Alleged side-effects of wearing Virbams include: improved posture, elimination of chronic lower back pain, decreased joint inflammation, decrease in injuries related to running, increased strength and stability in every muscle of your legs and feet, and an improved social life because everybody will come up to you and ask about them.  Sounds good to me!

Of course, I didn’t read about all the benefits of barefoot running until recently, which means the two pairs of Nike’s I bought three months ago will soon be collecting dust.  I’ve never been a huge fan of running, but that might change once I pick up a pair of Vibrams this afternoon (as long as the store in Atlanta has my size and style).

Here’s another benefit of Vibrams that hadn’t occurred to me until yesterday – when doing exercises like squats and deadlifts, many serious trainers and powerlifters would recommend that you lift weights barefoot.  Obviously most gyms won’t let you go barefoot for sanitary/safety reasons, so I’m excited to wear my five fingers to the gym on my next deadlift day and see how my lifts are affected.

Paleo and frog feet, here I come.


That’s It, I’m Going Primal. Who’s With Me?

Sorry the updates this week have been late, I’ve been on vacation up in Cape Cod and decided sleeping in was of the utmost importance.  Regular updates around 8AM will begin again next week.  I hung out with my buddy Saint yesterday (the programmer who lost 33 lbs in 12 weeks), and he told me that although the first 33 pounds came off quickly for him, the last 15 he wants to lose have been a big pain in the ass.  Ultimately, he wants to weigh around 185-190 lbs, and he’s stuck at 205.

After reading The Paleo Diet on my flight home last Friday, I called up Saint and told him that I might have found the solution he needed it comes to getting rid of those last few pounds.  A few weeks back I wrote an article on Primal Living, and I think I’m ready to take the plunge.  I’ve read case study after case study about all the amazing side effects of just eating lean meats, vegetables, fruits, and nuts.  For example, “…by eating the foods that we are genetically adapted to eat, followers of the Paleo Diet are naturally lean, have acne-free skin, improved athletic performance, and are experiencing relief from numerous metabolic-related and autoimmune diseases.”  It’s going to be extremely challenging for me, but I figured if Saint and I are trying it together, even though he’ll be in Massachusetts and I’ll be in Atlanta, we’ll be able to motivate each other and stay on track.

Now, I do have quite a few concerns, so I’m going to take next week when I get back to Atlanta to get my ducks in a row before jumping in head first into a paleolithic diet:

  • I’m trying to gain weight! Cutting out all of these high calorie grains might make that difficult.
  • I love cereal. I go through boxes of cereal and gallons of milk every week.
  • Spaghetti! I freaking love spaghetti and eat it every damn day for lunch.
  • I don’t like a lot of vegetables, and fish isn’t my thing. Looks like that’s going to have to change.

So, as you can see I have quite the uphill battle ahead of me. I envision lots and lots of chicken, lettuce, asparagus, and frozen strawberries.  I’m going to have to get really creative when it comes to using my blender.  I’ll have to add enough healthy stuff in there and enough frozen fruit that I can’t taste the non-delicious stuff.


Why am I doing this? Well, I figured I can’t promote a diet on this site until I’ve actually tried it myself.  Beginning next Sunday (Sep. 6th), I’ll take all of my measurements (weight, body fat percentage, etc.) and then give this thing a two week trial run.  I hope I don’t lose too much weight, but my guess (and hope) is that I’ll probably lose 5 lbs in this experiment, but it will just be extra body fat (from all the carbs and gallons of milk I’ve been consuming all year long), and I’ll just be left with muscle.  Although I put their picture up there, hopefully I don’t end up looking like Fred or Barney.

Oh, and I plan on picking up a pair of Vibram Five-Fingers next week to get me in the Paleo-Primal spirit. I figured if Mark from the Primal Blueprint, Tim Ferriss of the 4 Hour Workweek, my friend Kappy, and Saint all swear by these things, it’s time for me to jump on the barefoot bandwagon.  I’ll be getting the Black KSO’s, because they’ll make me feel like more of a Ninja, getting me one step closer to my dream of competing on Ninja Warrior.  Expect a full review soon once I give them a shot.

I’m both scared and excited. Leading up to Sunday, I’ll be writing posts on what I’m doing to prepare, and then I’ll start writing posts that update how I’m feeling through the whole process.

Anybody else interested in trying out the Primal diet?  Have more questions about what you can and can’t eat?  Do any of you have Vibram 5-Fingers, and what do you think of them?

Leave in the comments below.


Role Playing, Genetics, and Fitness. OH MY!

worldofwarcraftWe’re all different.

Some of us are big, some of us are skinny, some of us right in the middle.  Some of us are tall, some of us are short, some of us have fast metabolisms, some of us have slow metabolism.  Despite all of these differences, we’re all after the same thing: to love and be loved, to live a long life full of family and friends, and have a job or passion that makes us excited to wake up every single day.  Due to our genetic make-up, the ‘long life’ and “to be loved” part of your goals might be tougher than others.  If you have a family history of alcoholism, diabetes, and heart disease, you are going to be at higher risk for those issues.  If you were raised by two parents who were both overweight, chances are you’re probably overweight as well because you were raised in that type of environment.

You can’t chose who your parents are, and you can’t control your genetics.  It’s like playing a MMORPG like World of Warcraft or Everquest.  You go to the character select screen, you close your eyes, and you click the “random” button.  The game rolls an imaginary set of dice and you end up with a completely random creation.  You really wanted to be a Half-Elf but ended up with an Ogre?  Tough ****.  You were hoping for an Iksar (lizard dude) and you ended up with a Fae (fairy race)?  Tough ****.  (These are EQ terms by the way, I never got into WoW).  After the initial disappointment settles, you learn about your race and character class and adapt your play style to have the most fun with it.

Life is no different. The body and genetics you have now are the ones you were born with.  You can either complain about your genetically ‘slow metabolism’ or the fact that you ‘can’t gain weight no matter what,’ or you can accept the fact that this is who YOU are.  You may have a crooked nose, big ears, bad eyesight, whatever.  Unless you want to pay for plastic surgery and liposuction (which is cheating, boooo), this is who you are, and this what you have to work with.  Make the most of it!

Picture 1What do you want to be when you grow up? I don’t care if you’re 40 years old and 400 lbs, you still have plenty of growin’ up to do.  You can blame the fact that you’re overweight on your dad and grandfather being overweight, or play the hand you’re dealt and start doing something about it!  There’s always going to be somebody who has it easier than you, who rolled a better character in this RPG we called life.  Who cares?  They got lucky, and you didn’t.  It happens.  Some people win the lottery, the rest of us are stuck finding other ways to make a living.  Those people who have it easy will never truly appreciate the hard work associated with a healthy lifestyle and self-made fortune.

This might sound weird, but I’m glad I haven’t won the lottery and I’m glad I wasn’t born with perfect genetics.  It makes me appreciate what I have now because I had to really work for it.  I’m one of those people blessed/cursed with a lightning fast metabolism.  I’ve spent the past 7 years working out and the past 3 years really analyzing my diet so that I can put on healthy weight, trying to find 3500 healthy calories a day (it’s not easy).  I have friends who can look at a set of weights and suddenly his arms get bigger.  I have other friends who struggle to lose weight no matter how little what they eat.  Not fair right?  Welp, life isn’t fair.  Deal with it!

Life is too damn short to complain and make excuses. Besides, everybody has their own problems, nobody wants to listen to yours.  I plan on being on this planet as long as possible.  I plan on raising a great family, and I plan on watching my kids and their kids grow up.  I try to take steps every day to get healthier and stay in shape.

No matter your age, it’s never too late to start making those changes.  You can either blame things outside of your control, or you can suck it up and do the best with what you’ve got.  Don’t feel sorry for yourself, because nobody wants to hear it.  Get started now:

Who’s with me!


In the Gym, Keep it Simple Stupid!

Open up any copy of Muscle & Fitness, and you’re bound to find dozens of different workouts that will sculpt the three parts of your triceps, individual abs, all parts of your shoulder, etc., with ultra-specific exercises that isolate individual muscles.  These routines will ask you to spend 5 or 6 days a week in the gym for two hours at a time.  Unless you’re a body builder, taking steroids, or you don’t have a life, exercising like this is ridiculous!  If you have a job, friends, family, and a hobby or two, two hours a day in the gym, six days a week just isn’t an option.

I spent a few months in college following one of these routines because I didn’t know any better (and I had the free time).  I’d spend close to two hours a day in the gym, doing six or seven exercises of at least three sets each for the muscle group of the day, and then come home and drink my protein shake like they said in the magazine, and I did this religiously for three months.  You know what I got out of it?  Not much.

Exercising like this is time consuming and not practical.  “Appearance is a consequence of fitness” is a phrase I truly believe in, and it makes a lot of sense.  Don’t worry about exercising to look good.  Exercise to get strong and healthy, and you’ll end up looking good as a side effect (not to shabby).  Rather than doing time-consuming isolation exercises, concentrate on exercises that recruit as many muscles as possible.  If you can do one exercise that uses three muscle groups in only 10 minutes, why bother doing 6 different exercises working each individually?  Sure each muscle might get worked a little harder that way, but its going to take you at least three times as long.  Unless you’re hell bent on becoming a body-builder, the benefits don’t outweigh the cost.  Let’s take a look at the four or five key exercises you need to have in your gym routine.  You can get all of these exercises done in one 45-minute session and you’ll have worked practically every single muscle in your body.

  • Squats and Deadlifts: If you “work out” and these exercises aren’t in your repertoire, you’re wasting your time.  Not surprisingly, you won’t see many people doing these exercises in your typical gym because they think they’ll get hurt doing them.  This is untrue.  If you do squats and deadlifts correctly, you will have ridiculously strong and stable legs, back, and core (which is crucial for injury prevention).  Injuries occur because these muscles aren’t strong enough in certain situations (moving a couch, carrying your kids around, swinging a golf club, etc.).  Read how to do a perfect squat HERE, and read how to do a perfect deadlift HERE.  I guarantee you’ll earn the respect of everybody in your gym when you start doing deadlifts with three plates on each side.  Only have 10 lbs on each side to start?  That’s fine, get stronger every day, and you’ll get there eventually.
  • Pull Ups/Chin Ups: Rather than doing bicep curl after bicep curl (lame, and vain), do pull ups and chin ups.  Ever seen a fat rock climber?  Nope, because you need incredible strength to pull your body weight up the side of a mountain.  I feel like this is one exercise that is a true test of your strength, which is why it’s one of my favorites.  If you’re not strong enough to do pull ups and chin ups yet, see if your gym has an assisted pull up machine; these are better for you than using the pull down machine.  Read about pull ups and chin ups HERE.
  • Presses (chest/shoulder): I’m a big fan of incline dumbbell chest presses, because they work your chest, shoulders, triceps, and every muscle in between.  Set a bench at a little less than a 45 degree angle, grab a pair of dumbbells, and press them up above you as if you were bench-pressing.   Other options would be to do a regular bench press on a flat bench, or standing shoulder press.

If you’re just starting out in the gym, I would strongly recommend either a full body routine or two day split, making sure you go ALL OUT for 45 minutes and no more. Focus on just these exercises and get really strong at each of them.  Start with a low weight, and concentrate on having PERFECT form.  I have a lot of respect for a guy that can squat down past parallel, even if the weight on the bar is minimal.  You might ask: what about my biceps/triceps/abs/etc?  When you do pull ups and chin ups, your biceps get a hell of a workout.  When you do bench presses, your triceps get worked like crazy.  When you do a deadlift, you also work abs, lower back, traps, and forearms along with your legs.

Only after you’ve advanced to a high level of strength (squat 1.5 times your body weight, deadlift twice your body weight, etc.) with these exercises would I recommend doing isolation exercises.  If you’re not there yet, don’t worry about it.  Try to add weight each week to these exercises while maintaining good form.

Here’s a sample full-body routine with these exercises:

  • Squats: 4 sets (reps of 12, 10, 8, 6 – increasing weight each set wait 1 minute between sets)
  • Incline Dumbell Press: 4 sets (reps of 12,10,8,6 – increasing weight each set, wait 1 minute between sets)
  • Deadlifts: 4 sets (reps of 12, 10, 8, 6, increase weight each set, wait one minute between sets)
  • Pull ups or Chin ups: 3 sets to exhaustion (do as many as you can in each set).  If you do pull ups this time, do chin ups the next time.
  • Stretch afterwards!

Your muscles get rebuilt in your off-days, so I wouldn’t do this routine two days straight.  Do it on Monday, run sprints on Tuesday, go for a walk on Wednesday, and then do this routine again on Thursday, sprints on Friday, and then take Saturday and Sunday off.  That’s an hour and a half total in the gym, 40 minutes of sprint, and an hour of walking.  Only 3 hours and 10 minutes out of your week.

Sounds too simple and too easy to build muscle right?  Not true.  If you eat high quality protein, fruits, and vegetables while exercising like this you will build muscle mass.  Give it a shot, and simplify your routine.


Are Your Low-Fat Meals Are Making You Fatter?

Word Count: 950 NF Difficulty: Beginner

Everybody is convinced that the fat in your food is the cause for our nation’s obesity issue.  WRONG.  You know who the real culprit is? Sugar and simple carbohydrates.

Whenever you fill your body with more fuel than it actually needs, which is easy when eating food with a high sugar content, your liver’s sugar storage capacity is exceeded.  That extra energy is converted into fatty acids, hops back into the blood stream, and then gets stored as fat in various places on your body.  Secondly, anytime you eat simple carbohydrates that are loaded with sugar (white bread, fruit juice, white rice, bagels, soda, pretzels, cookies, crackers, ice cream, candy, etc.), the insulin levels in your body are spiked to help fill up your muscles with energy and stored glucose.  The extra sugar not used by your muscles or stored in them becomes fat.  To make matters worse, this whole process causes your body’s blood sugar to drop below normal levels which causes an increased appetite and you’ll need to eat again.  Not cool.

Now that 2/3rds of the country is overweight, everybody is trying to “eat better.”  If you’re a food company trying to sell more food, you’ll find a way to rework your products so they just APPEAR healthier.  Your customers will then buy your product because of buzz words like “no sugar added” and “low fat,” “reduced fat,” and “healthy choice.”  These terms are all relative, and more often than not the low-fat options aren’t much better than the regular options.

Let’s talk about a low-fat microwave meal that you find in your local Kroger, Stop & Shop, Ralph’s, etc.  It says “healthy choice,” it’s called “lean cuisine,” and the box says “low fat!” it has to be good for you, right?  Unfortunately, in order to make these things still taste good, they remove most of the fat (a lot of which can be good fat) and instead replace it with sugar, salt, bulking agents, flavor enhancers, and artificial flavors by the bucket-full.

Let’s take a look at an example: Lean Cuisine’s Orange Chicken: only 300 calories and 7 grams of fat, but it has 11 grams of sugar included in its 46 grams of simple carbohydrates.  Not a terrible meal, but not very healthy considering you’re paying for ‘healthy choice.’  This ‘meal’ wouldn’t qualify as a snack for most people due to its size, but

Here’s a list of all the ingredients in this teeny tiny little meal that won’t fill you up: Blanched Enriched Long Grain Rice (Rice, Ferric Phosphate, Niacin, Thiamin Mononitrate, Folic Acid), Water, Cooked Breaded White Chicken Meat, Ground And Formed (Chicken Breast With Rib Meat, Water, Isolated Soy Protein (With Less Than 2% Soy Lecithin), Modified Food Starch, Sodium Phosphates, Chicken Broth Powder (Chicken Broth, Salt, Flavorings), Potassium Chloride, Salt, Garlic Powder, Battered With: Water, Modified Wheat Starch, Bleached Wheat Flour, Yellow Corn Flour, Rice Flour, Dextrose, Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate), Egg Whites, Salt, Modified Cellulose, Predusted With : Modified Wheat Starch, Bleached Wheat Flour, Soybean Oil, Sugar, Yeast, Salt, Breading Set In Vegetable Oil), Orange Juice Concentrate, Red Peppers, Yellow Carrots, Edamame Soybeans, Sugar, 2% Or Less Of Soy Sauce (Water, Wheat, Soybeans, Salt), Modified Cornstarch, Chile Garlic Sauce (Chile Pepper (Chiles, Salt), Garlic, Water, Sugar, Rice Vinegar, Modified Cornstarch, Acetic Acid), Almonds, White Vinegar, Honey, Brown Sugar Syrup, Dehydrated Soy Sauce (Soybeans, Salt, Wheat), Sesame Oil, Garlic Puree, Ginger Puree (Ginger, Water, Citric Acid), Orange Peel, Potassium Chloride, Dehydrated Red Peppers, Spices, Caramel Color.

GOOD LORD.  It’s chicken, rice, and a few vegetables! When the list of ingredients is that long for a 300 calorie meal, it can’t be that good for you.  Why not have two grilled chicken tenderloins, a big salad, and some fruit for the same number of calories?

oreos_lowfatHow about “reduced fat” Oreos? Surely they have to be better for you, right?  Well, one serving of reduced fat Oreos is only 10 calories less than normal Oreos, has the same amount of sugar, and has 2 MORE grams of carbohydrates.  If Nabisco is trying to pull one over on you with this marketing hype crap, think of how many other companies are too.  Read your labels!

Be smart.  Eat natural when you can, and try to keep your simple carbs and sugar intake to a minimum if you want to lose weight.  Don’t buy into the hype from all of these ‘healthy food’ options.  Compare all of the options to find the healthiest (or least terrible), because they’re certainly not created equal.  Keep an eye on these important things:

  • Calories - obviously you want to keep calories down if you’re trying to lose weight, but not all calories are created equal.  100 calories of grilled chicken isn’t the same thing as 100 calories of peanut M&Ms.
  • Fat Content – not all fat is created equal either.  You want to keep the bad kinds of fat to a minimum (trans fat is the worst), but other types of fat (monounsaturated fats, for example) are actually good for you.
  • Carbohydrates – Not surprisingly not all carbs are created equal either.  Complex carbs (that you get from vegetables and quality grains) are far better for you than simple carbs (which I listed above).  Carbs that you get from natural sources can provide you with energy all day rather than in short bursts.
  • Sugar content – All of that processed sugar in your meals  quickly turns to fat in your system.  Its this stuff that’s making you fat, so get rid of it.

Stick with the natural stuff.  Bring your own lunch if you can, and eat things where you can pronounce all of the ingredients.  If you have no choice (which is impossible if you’re willing to plan ahead and put in 10 minutes of work) but to eat these pre-packaged dinners…choose wisely.


Why You Can’t Spot-Remove Fat

I’ve been home on Cape Cod for a few days now, and I’ve already been asked from friends and relatives for a few tips on what to train, how to train, how to build muscle, how to lose weight, etc.

I had one friend tell me that he’s doing all kinds of crazy ab workouts and tons of sit ups but can’t get rid of his gut.  I had another person ask me how to spot-reduce his…um…back fat.  I have a hunch that if these two have this viewpoint, there’s gotta be quite a few of you out there that think the same way.

Picture 1Craig Ballantyne, internet fitness guru, had this as his Fcebook status the other day: “Traditional “crunch” type ab exercises are useless – they are a JOKE. Today I saw a homeless guy in downtown Toronto with a six pack (abs, that is). You think he ever did a crunch? Gimme a break. He had abs because he had low body fat. So save your time and skip the ridiculous “ab workouts” that get hyped.”

If your main goal is to end up with abs, or you want to get the fat off your thighs or back or stomach, specific targeted exercises won’t work.  The muscle and fat in your body are two different systems.  You can build up your muscles all you want, but you won’t be able to see them until you get rid of the fat covering those muscles.

Want to get rid of that fat?  You’ve heard of the 80/20 rule right? When it comes to ‘getting in shape,’ your diet is king.  If this homeless guy can have a six pack, it isn’t because he’s following the p90x workout.  It’s because he’s not eating crap (well, he’s probably not eating much).  What does that mean for you?  It means you can’t outrun your fork, and you can’t outrun a bad diet.

All of those sodas, double cheeseburgers, sugary cereals, Twinkies, pizza, Taco Bell, deep fried chicken, and hot dogs won’t allow you to get rid of that gut.  You need to get your body fat percentage to drop, and the fat will come off your body all over.  It might come off your arms and legs first, then your outer thighs, and then your stomach.  The moral of the story is, you can’t control where that weight comes off because it’s fat.  You can build up your muscles by training specific parts of your body, but you can’t spot reduce fat.

Want to see those abs?  Eat better! Want to get rid of the fat around your mid section?  Eat better! Want to remove the fat off your legs? Eat better!

  • Eat a high protein diet: chicken, fish, lean ground beef.
  • Lots of vegetables: eat all the green stuff you want.  They’re filling, full of fiber, and low on calories.  Find a few that you love, and eat the **** out of them.  I’m a big asparagus guy.
  • Lots of fruits: strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, apples, blackberries, raspberries, and more.  I buy bags of frozen strawberries from Trader Joe’s or the HUGE bag from Sam’s Club.  They’re cheap, they go great in a blender
  • Processed sugar and simple carbs are your enemy: processed sugar, junk food, simple carbs (like white bread, white rice, etc.), and Soda.  Get it out of your diet!  Get rid of it.

Health is not accomplished in 8 minutes from some DVD.  Fitness isn’t achieved from jogging half a mile every other day.  It’s a lifestyle change.  It’s making a decision every morning to eat right and stay strong.  There’s no simple solution to a flat stomach, there’s no miracle exercise to thinner legs, there’s no easy fix to a healthy figure.  It takes hard work, common sense, and dedication!

Do it.


NF Rewind: Nerd Fitness Begins…

For today’s 150th post, I decided to look back at my very first post from last fall, before I really knew what I was getting myself into.  Check it out!

How this site started:

When I moved out to San Diego in ’06, I weighed approximately 160 lbs. I had spent 4 years of college trying every workout routine in the book: one muscle group every day for 5 days a week, 3 muscle groups a day twice a week, etc etc etc. I think between Freshman year and Senior year I probably put on 5 lbs. (I didn’t drink through most of College, so the “Freshman Fifteen” that everybody else put on didn’t really apply to me. I would have LOVED to put on 15 lbs!) I tried it all, and nothing worked.

Things changed when I moved out to the West Coast and signed up at the local gym.  I was given 5 free sessions with a personal trainer, and I learned what I had been doing wrong all along: my diet. Even though I had done the right exercises for the four years of college to build muscle mass, I was only eating half the number of calories and grams of protein necessary for muscle development. In the 5 weeks hitting up the gym and meeting with my personal trainer, I was eating over 200 grams of protein a day and a ridiculous amount of good carbs, scattered throughout 7 meals (eaten every 3 hours), and I went from 160 lbs. to 180 lbs.

I figured after 4 years of intense work-out sessions, I was doomed to be skinny for the rest of my life (yeah, poor me. I know, I’m so lucky, blah blah blah. That’s not the point!) All it took was a change in my diet and my approach to the whole thing.  Since then, I’ve tried to absorb as much information and experience from all aspects of fitness to develop the most efficient way to stay in great shape.  I studied hard and became certified as a personal trainer; after the certification I continued studying and learning, soaking up as much information from as many sources as possible.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to do this whole fitness and health thing.  I’ve tried enough of the wrong ways, so I want to make it easy on you guys (and girls) to find the RIGHT way.

That’s my story, and this is where we begin.


Always Be Learning

Later on tonight, I’ll be meeting up with Mike Rickett, a personal trainer from Colorado who had taught my personal trainer certification class.  Mike travels the country and teaches personal trainer certification classes, and when he’s not traveling he’s training athletes at the Olympic training center near his house.  Not a bad gig!

I love when Mike comes to town, because I know I’m going to learn something new.  Last time he came to town, he took me through an Olympic lifting routine that had me sweating buckets in only 20 minutes.  Prior to that day, I had never even considered doing Olympic lifting and couldn’t see myself getting real benefits out of it.  However, after that day I did some research and found that most Olympic lifters have incredible verticals and can hit the hell out of a golf ball.  As an avid golfer and pick-up bball player, I figured I had been an idiot for years by not doing these lifts.  Now, I do Olympic lifting every other week, trying to perfect my technique and increase my strength.  I always thought being able to dunk a basketball was something you’re born with – now, I’m closer than ever to having enough vertical to throw it down, and I know if I stick with these lifts I’ll be there soon enough.

Tonight Mike and I will be headed to the gym again, and I can’t wait to see what I’ll learn.  Mike’s is my Yoda. Maybe some new lifting styles, some new crazy exercises, or maybe a new way to do an old routine.  Whatever it is, I can’t wait to expand my knowledge and then pass along that info to you guys.  This whole “fitness” and “health” thing is quite the undertaking, and no matter how much you think you know, there’s always somebody that knows more.  I decided long ago that I could never be the guy that knows everything; there simply isn’t enough time in the day.  I was an Econ major in college, I don’t have a doctorate in health sciences, and I work a full-time job along with running this site.  Instead of trying to be an expert at everything, I’m going to continue to try and improve my life a little bit each day, whether it’s by learning something new related to fitness, eating just a little bit better, or helping somebody else improve their lives.   As long as I’ve done one of those things every day, I feel like I’m living my life right.  Like a Firefox or Mac OSX update, there are various stages.  You don’t jump from 1 to 2.  You jump from 1.1.2 to 1.1.3, or 10.5.3 to 10.6.1.  Some changes are small, some are monumental.  No matter the size of the change, as long as it’s SOMETHING, you’re improving.

  • On Monday, I gave up Muscle Milk shakes after drinking three of them a day for 3 years.  I’ve switched to creating my own post-workout shake that is made up of fruits, juices, and good calories.  I already feel better because I know exactly what I’m putting in my body.
  • On Tuesday, I helped a Nerd Fitness reader develop a healthy fitness routine and diet for his body type.
  • Yesterday, I finally gave up my Skippy peanut butter (after eating PB sandwiches daily for 20 years, I kid you not).  I’ve switched to natural peanut butter which has 80% less sugar, and actually tastes the same.
  • Today, I’ll be learning new exercises and routines from Mike.

I challenge you to do the same.  Make one switch in your diet, add a new exercise to your routine, do some research on a new technique, or help one of your friends who is looking to change his/her life as well.  Always be learning, always improve.  Make yourself a better person and make this planet a better place. 

One step at a time, level up your life.


My Interview and Workout for

Wednesday is off and running, and I’m already feeling better about my decision to give up those Muscle Milk shakes.

Instead, I’ve switched over to creating a new concoction that has almost as many calories and is only a little bit more expensive: 6 oz of Orange Juice, a handful of frozen strawberries, half a cup of oatmeal, and one scoop of whey protein – blend it all up, and I’m left with a protein filled, good carb-loaded strawberry smoothie.   It’s freaking delicious.  It’s about 200 calories less than my old shakes, so I’m thinking of trying to find other ways to add calories without compromising the taste.  I think I’m going to lean towards adding some yogurt, switching out the OJ for milk, and maybe even adding some sunflower seeds.

A few other news and notes, if you haven’t got a chance to listen to it yet, head on over to and check out the podcast interview I did with Eventualist creator/comedian Mike Vardy about the history of Nerd Fitness and my future plans for the site.  Mike’s a great guy, and presents a satirical view on the whole “Getting things done” mantra.  Instead of GTD, Mike decided to go with FTD…you’ll have to check out the site to see what it stands for.

Picture 1Mike had me create a special Eventualist workout for his readers as well, which you can read about here, and download as a PDF here.

Next week, I’ll be flying home to spend some vacation time with my parents on Cape Cod, MA.  I won’t have a gym membership up there, so I’m going to have to come up with some creative ways to exercise.  Expect a post or two on exercise routines using just my bodyweight and things around the house, because that’s all I’ll have available to me.


NF Mailbag: When Should I Drink A Protein Shake?

wayne-gretzky-21Wayne Gretzky asks: Hey Steve.  I was looking over your site the other day.  Great stuff man.

I’d like to try protein shakes but I’m pretty clueless.  A guy I play hockey with says I should have one before the game.  I’ve read  your protein shakes for newbies article but what else typically goes in a shake?  Anything special in particular with relation to the sport of ice hockey?  Also what’s your take on drinking coffee?  I never used to drink the stuff but started a few years back.  Most I would have is 2 cups usually.



Steve writes: Wow, Wayne Gretzky emailed me! Not really.  Alright Wayne, as far as protein shakes go, their main purpose is to pump your body full of protein when you need it quickly and cheaply.  What does protein do?  Help rebuild your muscles after they’ve been broken down.  You don’t really get much energy out of a protein shake, but it certainly helps rebuild your muscles AFTER you’ve destroyed them.  Drinking a protein shake after your hockey game might be a good idea, because your muscles are all worn out and beat up from playing hockey.  Hockey is lots of sprints, so your legs will be pretty beat.  This is when your muscles need protein the most.  Before the hockey game (not immediately before), I’d recommend something that will give you energy – a banana and peanut butter, whole grain bagel and peanut butter, oatmeal and rasins, etc.  You want something with complex carbs (whole grains) and a little bit of sugar to give you energy throughout your game.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you want to stay hydrated, so make sure you’re chugging water starting the day before your games.  Hockey is one of those brutal sports that can really wipe you out if you’re dehydrated.

If you’re interested in drinking protein shakes after your games or after you work out, the easiest thing to do to start out is buying yourself a tub of 100% pure whey protein.  They’re cheap, you can buy in bulk, and they come in different flavors; I’m a vanilla fan myself.  You can mix a scoop or two (check the serving size) with just water, but most of the time those taste crappy.  Instead, I’d say mix it with milk, or orange juice and frozen fruit (my new favorite mix).  Adding frozen fruit is a great idea, and try to eat a few slices of wheat bread if you can too.  You NEED to get carbs along with the protein so your body can use the carbs to refuel and the protein to rebuild.  I’ve even heard of people throwing some oatmeal packets into the blender too, as oatmeal is loaded with complex carbs that will help your body refuel.

Get a cheap blender from Walmart or target, buy a bag of frozen fruit from the supermarket, and start mixing and matching good materials until you come out with a product you like!

I haven’t done too much research on coffee as I don’t drink it, but I know lots of people that do.  I know there are some issues for some people who drink like 5 cups a day with milk and sugar and cream in it, the calories really start to add up.  I’ll do some extra research into coffee and write a post about that soon because I’m curious myself.

Thanks for writing in!


Have a question? Email me at [email protected] and I’ll gladly answer it.

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