New YouTube Series

I have spent a long time away from posting new content to this site and we are also going through some updates as I’m sure you can tell. That said, I would like to let you know about a new YouTube series I have started called “Tenacity Tips”. Many of you have asked questions about what I do and some require me to show you in person or video. I started the Tenacity Tips series as a way for me to share this information in two minutes or less. The topics will range from workout moves to nutrition to equipment and anything in-between.

Above is Episode 001 where I start a six episode mini-series on pull-ups and variations that are possible. Soon to be uploaded will be the next mini-series, episodes 007-009 on “HIIT Bench Jumps”. Hope fully you will find the videos useful and as always, message me and comment if you have questions!

and…SUBSCRIBE!

MyChallenge App

This is the perfect addition to our facebook support group: a dedicated app for tracking workouts, nutrition, and keeping track of your progress with other people participating in the same program. It’s called “MyChallenge” and after playing with it for the past two weeks, it looks FANTASTIC. Check out the video for more information and JOIN THE TEAM to get in on this.

Lastly, I will be starting a group on March 14th, 2016. If that start date is appealing to you, let me know so we can get after this together!

Motivation Part 1

I have to say there is some irony to this topic. I want to be good about creating content that is meaningful to people who stop by this page but sometimes I lack the motivation to sit down and just write. Let’s end that and talk motivation as related to health and fitness at the same time!

Everyone is different when it comes to motivation. Some think they lack it, some don’t realize they lack it, some are motivated intrinsically while others feel they need external motivation. Regardless of the specifics I am convinced that having the right “why” is incredibly important. Doing something for the sake of doing it rarely leads to success. It’s all about leveraging something that you find important to motivate you in the direction you want to be going in. In addition to the list above, I believe that there are groups of people who find it hard to find motivation to start a change and groups of people who can easily start but then lose motivation to continue. The “that sounds like a lot of work” or the “maybe once I’m less busy in a few months” people vs. the “jump right in for 2 weeks but then lose interest” people. Nothing wrong with thinking those thoughts. The key is finding ways around them. Here are five motivating factors that might help regardless of the angle you are coming in from:

1. Consistency – I have to say I am somewhat of a “momentum guy” and thrive on a repetitive routine. When I was studying music in undergraduate and graduate school, I refused to let myself not practice my instrument. It wasn’t that I was always motivate to go practice (especially after 5 hours of marching band rehearsal at 2AM) but it was that I didn’t want to lose the momentum I had already built. The same has been true for fitness. I’m not always “motivated” to work out at 4:30AM but I have momentum from consistency and THAT gives me the motivation to do it. Trust me (or ask my parents) – I was never a morning person; see: how late I used to stay up practicing. If you build a routine that is consistent motivation will be a bi-product.

2. Track Your Progress – whether it’s nutrition, weight, muscle mass, before/after pictures, tracking does more than provide data to apply towards your goals but I have found it helps motivation. When you work hard at something but you do it every day, it is easy to lose sight of how you are progressing. Losing 0.2lbs isn’t jaw dropping and maybe it’s one of those weigh-ins that would get you discouraged or unmotivated but if you can look back to your data and see that those 0.2lbs are part of 10lbs down overall then you have something. There is power to knowing how far you come.

My way to track workouts, weight, and calorie targets in one place.
My way to track workouts, weight, and calorie targets in one place.

Equally, there is power to knowing how to change where you are at. Don’t give trick yourself into thinking something isn’t really working – track so you can see how it’s working.

3. Support Network – It is easy to make “deals” with yourself, decide today isn’t a good workout day, think “maybe this isn’t for me”, or just give up if you do everything on your own.

When I joined an online support group for health and fitness, it changed all of that. I went from being able to disappear to having people that checked in on me and more importantly seeing what other people were doing for workouts and nutrition. I help run a group like this now through Facebook but there are a wide variety of ways to get a support network.

Stay tuned for the second part of this blog where I will talk about more specifics in terms of workout routine, techniques, and nutrition sustainability!

Starting Up: Equipment

EDITED: 1/31/2016. I have some new thoughts… ?
Home gyms carry many advantages but there are many questions that arise regarding equipment, space, and needs for specific programs: How do I start if I don’t have a ton of money spend on the equipment? What do you really need to be successful? What if I don’t have room? The information in this post should provide you the tools to get started today.

I recommend the following items to anyone looking for the simplest way to start any program requiring resistance training. At some point you will want to probably upgrade but this is your bare bones starter:

Resistance Bands – $40:
You can use loops to increase intensity and the type of bands I recommend have the ability to clip (karabiner) multiple bands to one handle. These will also act as your pull-up move with a door attachment. I recommend this set of Bodylastics bands. The set includes the handles that I mentioned, door attachment, and ankle straps as well as 5 QUALITY bands.

Yoga Mat – $15-30:
Great for core work and obviously yoga, Pilates etc. Recommended especially if you are working out on a hard surface. Some are better than others. I have found the GAIM brand to be longer lasting than the kinds you can find for $10.

Shoes: You really just need something comfortable to start. After a while you may find you want to get a good cross trainer for explosive lateral moves.

That’s all you need to begin a program! Like any hobby, there are add-ons, upgrades, and all sorts of ways to trick out your home gym. All that matters is that this gets you moving in the right direction. Better yet it is equipment that will still be useful even if/when you upgrade equipment. Finally, all of this fits in nearly any space. I have made 10′ x 10′ rooms work just fine and even living rooms with the coffee table pushed out of the way work. Don’t worry about having everything perfect, don’t worry about having all of the equipment, just show up. Show up and give it everything you’ve got with what you have!

Amount of Food vs. “Bad” Food

*Disclaimer: much of my nutrition philosophy is based on following Layne Norton and Sohee Lee. I feel they bring the right amount of science and personal experience to the topic and thus the “slant” of this blog post.

I had a post similar to this one (Snacking and “Bad” Foods) macronutrients-7-health-1024x1002but I want to reiterate what I have found to work: controlling the amount of food trumps whether or not you eat a bad food literally every time. While there can be further discussion about what’s used to make food, (GMOs, hydrogenated oils, organic etc.) from a fitness and weight loss standpoint it just comes down to carbs, protein, and fats. Focusing on the three elements or macro-nutrients (macros) as the primary element of a nutrition plan is known as “If It Fits Your Macros, IIFYM”, “Flexible Dieting”, and “Counting Macros”. So we’re on the same page, here is my list for what this means:

  1. Set a budget for your macro nutrients and hit that budget consistently
  2. Eat enough whole foods to hit good fiber numbers (35-50g) and micro nutrients from veggies
  3. Work in treat or “bad” foods into your budget instead of cheating
  4. Enjoy foods you normally wouldn’t see on a diet list
  5. SUSTAIN THIS FOR LONGER THAN 6 WEEKS! (It’s a lifestyle change that’s sustainable)

This seriously works – I have used it for a year and a half and when combined with consistent exercise – have had great results. It all comes down to controlling amounts consistently but not necessarily drastically. This is different than “clean eating,” which simply put, is saying that eating any amount of “good food” is fine and avoid “bad” foods (an extensive list). Here is a video discussing the two concepts by Layne Norton. Layne is a huge advocate for IIFYm and thus it is certainly slanted that way. He also works with bodybuilders so he bring up “shows” and “stage weight” but the same concepts still apply to anyone looking to get more fit. That said, he has a PhD in nutritional science and I trust what he has to say because it is backed by both research data and anecdotal accounts:

Tracking your macros also puts you into a position to accurately gauge the correct amount of food for your budget even if you’re on the go. I wrote a post regarding eating out if you haven’t gotten to check it out. In that post I bring up “guesstimating” once you’ve tracked macros for a little while. The video below explains this very well!

Eat Out Example – Restaurant with no macros listed:

(Menu item at a nearby restaurant)

My macros as calculated with “My Macros+”

– 6oz of salmon as the menu states
– 1.5 buns because I have seen buns similar in size at more calories
– Mayo sauce on the side so I could eye it more accurately
– Fruit side, roughly a cup by eye
– Bun seemed buttered lightly

Now I come to the point of this post. That is, spreading the word that there needs to be a paradigm shift from thinking of foods as “healthy”, “good”, “low-fat”, “clean” or “bad”, “fatty”, “sugary”, “unavoidable cheats” and rather as foods to simply fit into a daily budget. Is it healthy to eat Twinkies, protein powder, and peanut butter 24/7 if it fits your macros? No. If you hit your fiber, have some left over carbs and really like Twinkies, can you work one in? Absolutely. You just have to think of your food as if it’s on a budget and eat to those guidelines. Planning is important and you might notice me turning down a surprise doughnut but those of you who know me well know that as long as I can plan, I can fit most food choices (within reason) into a day.

I will say that as much as it gives flexibility, it’s not necessarily “easy” to start. It takes work to track, especially at first and it means that you have to plan ahead. You won’t be perfect at first but it gets easier over time (from personal experience) and the more you do it the faster you get at figuring out how to fit your food in correctly.

Lastly, this obviously something that I haven’t always done. I have learned how to do it and made mistakes along the way. I started with a simple free app and basic tracking and now have graduated to a more advanced tracking app and try to hit exact grams. I say that because I am happy to help anyone from beginners to more advanced who are interested in knowing more about counting macros.

Resources: Where I Read-Up

Let me start by saying, I don’t claim to be the world’s foremost expert in…anything. Fitness and nutrition are of huge interest to me but I am still learning and frequently (as you have probably seen) reading up on new material. I have a philosophy that is a blend of certain people and thus I enjoy following what they have to say and finding other research to support theories and methodology. Here are some of the sources and links to their pages in no particular order:

Mike Matthews – fitness writer who wrote the best-selling book “Bigger Leaner Stronger”.

Scott Herman

Mark Rippetoe

 

Layne Norton – a power lifter, bodybuilder, and PhD all rolled into one! Layne is no nonsense and ties scientific research to anything that he explains. There are times that it sounds like he is only speaking to professional body builders but the information can usually apply to more common fitness/nutrition applications (how to count macros, what supplements make sense, the science behind cardio training etc.). He has podcasts and YouTube videos that you can listen to as well as an excellent blog:
http://www.biolayne.com/blog/
https://www.youtube.com/user/biolayne/featured

 

 

 

Sohee Lee – fitness and nutrition coach who has an excellent way of simplifying concepts to what they really mean in application. She has a great book called “The Beginner’s Guide to Macros” and also has a blog with tons of information:
http://www.soheefit.com/articles/

 

 

 

Mike Vacanti – personal trainer who has a down to earth, “edgy” at times style and is a great resource for explaining nutrition concepts. He tells it like it is and is an especially good follow on facebook and other social media. Check out his blog here: http://www.ontheregimen.com/all-articles/

 

 

 

 

P90X Series

Tony Horton – creator of the famous “infomercial” program, P90X and celebrity trainer. Tony has a YouTube channel with a ton of short workouts as well as advice/Q&A’s. He has created excellent programs (P90, P90X, P90X2, and P90X3) but the reason (I think) for that success is his approach. He brings an intense but welcoming energy to everything he does and he is someone you can tell (even through a video or facebook post) really cares about other people and helping them reach their goals. He has a unique perspective on life and has even written a book “The Big Picture” encapsulating that:

 

 

PubMed – a lot of people are starting to turn to this site as a source for peer edited research. It’s a great place to do your own “further investigation” on the information you might hear or read. A lot of times studies can get misconstrued (correlation not being causation the largest issue) so it’s nice to have a place where you can do a little more research on the actual studies (nerd alert):
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed

I hope these resources help you and let me know if you have further questions!

Snacking and “Bad Foods”

So how do you live life without those foods you just “can’t live without” but know that they’re so “bad”? Well when following the principals of “If-it-fits-your-macros” or “iifym” it becomes possible to still work those foods in and thus the main reason I like iifym – sustainability! The knowledge that you can still eat foods that people who are used to going on diet after diet are used to hearing of as “bad” or “binge” foods.

Best Advice: You can plan around them. If you have a little advance notice you can fit anything in and counter it with other foods to make your macros work later. Whey protein is a quick way to balance your macros to have more protein which is usually the issue with foods that we crave. Finding low fat carb/protein combinations can also work. I think that Shakeology fits this bill incredibly well. Combine the whey with Shakeology and you have an instant macro “adjuster” that can be brought on the go. Here are some pointers:

  1. Enter the food first thing in the morning to ensure that you will still stay on track
  2. Make the rest of your diet a good dose of whole foods so the occasional departure isn’t a problem
  3. Find a way to modify the foods that you crave – maybe a smaller portion or a part of it subbed out for something with better macros to make it work overall.

Find snacks that are good substitutes to help you not always need the foods that you find yourself working around at first. Mixing the two strategies works very well:

  1. Protein bars – find ones that are low in fat, and have at least a 1:1 ratio of protein to carbs or more protein. If you can find all whey protein in the ingredients, that would be preferable!
  2. Protein pancakes – I posted this recipe here and they are perfect for breakfast or even a cold snack on the go
  3. Greek Yogurt – add fruit, stevia, whey, or cinnamon for an almost ice cream-like snack.
  4. Fig bars – these are specifically made by Nature’s Bakery but are an awesome non-GMO snack. Mostly carbs but an alternative to other types of cookies.
  5. Chocolate-covered fruit – there are different brands of dark chocolate covered fruit (blueberries, pomegranate etc.) that are small and can be eaten in moderation to make up for an entire dessert.
  6. Fruit – I have gotten to the point where fruit is sweet enough to calm most sugar cravings
  7. Water – drink water when you’re hungry, it helps! Some people like flavored water (natural fruit, crystal light, etc.)

Regardless of how you do it, the important concept to keep in mind is that in the end there aren’t “bad foods”. You can eat too much of a “healthy” food and have it cause problems for your macros. Instead, think of food in terms of how it fits your macros and you will discover you have more options than you might have thought!

Functional Fitness: Core

If you’re tuned into the fitness world then you might find that focusing on core workouts has become more “in vogue” than your typical sit-ups ab routine. By hitting multiple muscle groups including your Rectus Abdominis (most people think “six-pack”), Internal Obliques (side abs), and Transverse Abdominis (deep core muscle that wraps around your abdominal aea) you will not only be working toward a leaner mid section (don’t forget nutrition!) but also working on muscle groups that will help your every day life or exercising “functional fitness”. You will be more prepared for the random occurrences where people risk injury (picking up heavy objects, trying to catch something falling, etc.). Here is a core workout by trainer Tony Horton that gives a great example of this. Try it out, it’s only ten minutes!

The Eat Out Fix

Here are my tips on making eating out work while tracking your calories. The best part is that you CAN STILL EAT OUT but you need to make good choices and plan ahead. Ultimately the more you can food prep at home the better it will be for you (and your budget). That said, here are four ideas to work in when you find yourself eating out.

1. Find restaurants that are already entered into MyFitnessPal or have nutrition information online. There are more than you think! You can also use online calculators and add them as foods in MyFitnessPal. I have a “go-to” for a lot of places that I know fits my macros well no matter what (higher protein, lower fat etc.) My current favorites are (in no particular order): Panera, Noodles and Company, Protein Bar, Seasons 52, Chipotle, Egg Harbor, Jimmy Johns, Subway, Potbelly’s, and Roti

My Order: Burrito bowl, brown rice, black beans, 1/2 chicken 1/2 steak, lettuce, pico de gallo, fajita veggies, and half the side of quac!

2. If you can’t find it online or in MFP then use the guesstimate tactic. You will start to learn what food actually ways or looks like as a portion amount from measuring at home. When you eat out you can apply that. I can usually look at a piece of grilled chicken and gage roughly how many ounces it is. It might not be perfect but it’s better than nothing. You need to set yourself up for success with this tactic though. Try to order so that you can control the ingredients. Examples include:

– asking for dressing on the side, eyeing it once you see it and then adding it
– asking if the meat is grilled in oil or not
– hold certain ingredients or sides that aren’t necessarily bad but you know would blow up your calories if you had all of it

3. Plan around the eat out. Maybe everything on the menu is more than you would normally eat for dinner. Enter what you think you might have at the BEGINNING of the day and then eat around it to fit your macros. This ensures there are no “surprises” because you’re already accounting for it.

4. Don’t get caught up in the perfection. If you are tracking your food and doing the best you every day. An eat out here and there that’s guessed isn’t going to hurt your long term goals. Just don’t make it a habit and do your best to track it no matter what!

The whole point of flexible dieting (IIFYM tracking) is to promote a healthy but SUSTAINABLE diet that doesn’t have your metabolism in a yo-yo and doesn’t create a negative relationship with food. You can still enjoy life just learning to do it in moderation and with better choices!

The “Shake”…on Protein

I have gotten a lot of questions about protein shakes, when you should use them, how much protein is enough protein, and what type/brands to buy. This is a very expansive topic as there is a considerable amount of research out there on the effects protein has on diet, muscle hypertrophy, and fitness in general. Here are my five quick thoughts regarding protein, and in particular, protein shakes:

1. I feel the best use of a protein shake is as a means for getting your protein amount in the range of 1g of protein per pound of body weight, assuming you are also getting exercise 5-6 times per week. If you do the quick math, this is a significany amount of protein for most people. Personally, it is about 25% of my diet whereas someone eating a lower amount of calories might be closer to 40-50%. Regardless, it’s a lot of protein and a shake is a great way to fill the gaps in your diet.

2. Timing – you want to have some source of protein immediately after your workout. Shakes are good because they give you that protein source as well as BCAA’s (Branch Chain Amino Acids) which have positive effects on muscle growth. If you can, also have some type of simple carb after your workout as well. This will give you energy to re-fuel from. You can also have them throughout the day to fill diet gaps (see above) as well as before bed (micellar casein is especially good for this as it is a slow digesting protein).

3. Look for a protein that is high in protein and low in fat/carbs. Depending on the brand and fillers, you fill find variances on this. Also, try not to spend more than $60/5lbs of protein powder. Costco and Musclefeast.com are great sources for reasonable but quality protein.

4. Consider using whey powder to supplement a drink you already like. Protein powders work well with water but milk sources, fruit (blended together), and Shakeology are great additions to protein powder.

5. Lastly, I almost don’t consider protein powders (whey isolate, hydrolyzed whey, micellar casein, etc.) as supplements. To me they are another food source on my way to hitting my macro-nutrient goals. A protein shake won’t have the same effect that beta-alanine or creatine will have and is really just am excellent source of pure protein.

I will be writing more posts on protein in the future, but hopefully this helps address some of the basics!