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Five Fitness Mistakes Women Make (And How to Fix Them)

Five Fitness Mistakes Women Make (And How to Fix Them)

I get lots of questions from friends and family about working out. These are the five most common fitness mistakes women make, from my observations:

1) Not lifting weights.

We’ve been over this before. One of the most common fitness mistakes women make is not lifting weights. Too many women believe that lifting weights will make them bulky, and that’s just silly. Lifting weights is the best way to build muscle, which is much more visually appealing (and healthier!) than fat. Lifting weights also builds healthier bones, helping prevent osteoporosis – which women suffer from at higher rates compared to men.

The fix: lift weights.

2) Not lifting heavy weights.

Are you catching on to the theme here?

Women shouldn’t be afraid of getting strong. Want a better butt? Get strong glutes. Brett Contreras – known as “The Glute Guy” for his research into developing great posteriors – has a ton of great information on this subject.

The fix: Stop with the 3-pound tricep extensions. Get in the squat rack, do weighted push-ups – get strong!

3) Doing too much cardio.

Walk into any gym, and you’ll notice a consistent theme – most of the treadmills and other cardio equipment are occupied by women.

There’s nothing wrong with doing cardio work – it’s essential for a healthy heart. A common fitness mistake women make is doing too much cardio. Doing too much cardio can have negative consequences. Going overboard on cardio can lead to shin splints, knee injuries, and other physical ailments. It also often means other training methods – strength and flexibility – get neglected.

The fix: Do your cardio, but keep it in check. Balance out the trifecta: strength, conditioning, flexibility. Don’t overemphasize one area at the expense of the other two.

4) Half-assing it while reading a magazine or looking at PowerPoint slides.

This is fine if you’re 50+ or have some sort of physical injury.

If you’re 21 and 100% healthy, DON’T DO THIS. Stop wasting your time. Even if you’re doing lighter work – such as walking on an incline treadmill – you should be breaking a sweat.

It’s silly to spend 60 minutes barely moving and burning 50 calories when you can bust out a HIIT routine that burns 200+ calories in 20 minutes. 1/3 the time, 4x the results.

Maybe I’m just jealous because I could never study while working out.

The fix: drop the other stuff and focus on working out. You’ll get more accomplished and spend less time doing it.

5) Workout ADHD

We’ve seen interest in fitness classes explode over the past few years. There are more options available now than ever before.

On one hand, this is great! It makes finding a fitness program that works for you, and that you enjoy, much easier. We’re more likely to stick to a program we enjoy doing.

On the other hand, this can go wrong when we get “workout ADHD”. This happens when we switch from program to program without ever sticking to one for more than a few weeks.

I encourage you to try as many different types of training as possible – Crossfit, Barre, yoga, weightlifting, running, cycling, interval training, bodyweight exercising, Orange Theory, the list goes on.

At some point, though, you’ve got to pick something and stick to it. You’ll get better results this way. Find what you love and focus on that.

For me – I like lifting weights. I once stuck to the same weightlifting routine for over 60 weeks, from Fall 2014 to Spring 2016. You get great results from digging into a program and focusing on progressing within it, instead of hopping around different programming week after week.

The fix: find what you like, and stick to it.

The takeaway:

These are five common fitness mistakes I’ve witnessed female friends and family make. We’ve addressed why they happen, and ways to correct them. My goal is to help you find what works best for you, while avoiding the common mistakes that prevent others from making progress.

Eat well, get strong, stay healthy. Go make me proud.

Next week, we’ll look at the five biggest training mistakes men make.

My Lipid Panel While Eating 5 Eggs Every Day (And What It Means)

My Lipid Panel While Eating 5 Eggs Every Day (And What It Means)

Today, I want to share an experience that shows the power of ignoring nutritional facts that “everyone” knows – the basic assumptions most people just assume are true, because they are repeated so often, we fail to question their validity.

This is a story about conducting your own “N=1” studies, to find the strategies that work best for you.

“Limit dietary cholesterol”

The USDA recently released the 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, in which they dropped the recommendation to limit daily dietary cholesterol consumption to 300 mg or less, and replaced it with a recommendation to “eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible while consuming a healthy eating pattern.” This decision led to a lawsuit by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine – a group with an incredibly misleading name that loves to push vegetarian and vegan diets as solutions for everyone.

Anyway, as you’ve probably noticed, eggs have been painted as a nutritional bad guy over the past 50 years. During the War on Fat, numerous government agencies and “respected” authorities have repeated the dogma that eggs – high in cholesterol and fat, especially the saturated sort – are killers, causing high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease.

What does a lipid panel look like on 5 eggs per day?

Recently, my employer offered a free health screening, which included a finger-stick blood lipid panel test. I jumped at the chance, because 1) they offered a $100 incentive on my next pay check, and 2) everyone should get a full cholesterol panel every five years, beginning at age 20. I was a year behind, and with a family history of hyperlipidemia, I wanted to be sure my serum cholesterol levels were within healthy limits.

Since 2009, I’ve eaten five eggs a day for breakfast. Fat consistently makes up at least 40% of my calories, and is usually closer to 50%. Both habits fly in the face of conventional nutrition wisdom. Assuming that “fats are bad for you” and “eggs raise cholesterol”, combined with my family history of cardiovascular disease, my cholesterol should be well into dangerous territory.

The results:

Here is the exact readout from my lipid panel (note: date was not set correctly on the machine):

CHOL is total cholesterol. We want this number under 200 mg/dL.

HDL CHOL” cholesterol is the “good” cholesterol. We want this number above 40 mg/dL for men and above 60 mg/dL in women.

TRIG refers to triglycerides. We want this number less than 150 mg/dL.

CALC LDL refers to a calculated LDL. LDL is the “bad” cholesterol, and we want this number under 100 mg/dL. “Calculated” means that LDL was not directly measured, but was determined using the Friedewald equation, which calculates LDL using direct measurements of triglycerides, HDL, and total cholesterol.

TC/HDL is a ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol. A ratio of 5:1 signifies average risk of heart disease.

LDL/HDL ratio shows your ratio of LDL cholesterol to HDL cholesterol. Ideally, this ratio should be 3.5:1 or less.

NON-HDL refers to non-HDL cholesterol. This number is beginning to be used by more and more healthcare professionals as a way of assessing risk for cardiovascular disease. Ideally, this number is 130 mg/dL or less.

As you can see, all of my levels are within the “normal” range. In fact, nearly all of them fall in the “optimal” range.

“You must have great genetics!”

Shortly after, I had a follow-up with my primary care physician. I shared the test results with him.

“Your LDL is 75? Wow. You must have great genetics!”

I wish. Actually, my genetics are stacked against me. My father suffered a heart attack in 2011, and has been on cholesterol-lowering drugs for much of his adult life. My maternal grandfather’s death was partly caused by heart disease. Heart disease appears in males on both sides of my family. My genetics do not protect me from cardiovascular disease – they are a direct risk for it.

Through a diet low in sugar and white grains, high in vegetables and meat, and exercising 6-7 days per week, I’m fighting with everything I’ve got against my genetics. And it’s working.

The takeaway:

I hope this post encourages you to challenge common assumptions. Do your own research, and conduct your own “N=1” studies. This includes the information from the story I shared above. Just because eating five eggs a day has zero effect on my lipids does not guarantee you will have the same results. Try new things, figure out what works best for you, and mercilessly eliminate the things that don’t. This is how you find your prescription for better living.

Short, Great Strength Routines That Won’t Consume Your Life

Short, Great Strength Routines That Won’t Consume Your Life

Weightlifting doesn’t have to consume your life.

Ignore the gospel spread by magazines, internet articles, and broscience. You don’t need to lift weights every day to look good naked.

People think that lifting weights takes up a lot of time. This is a dangerous misconception that keeps people from ever lifting weights in the first place. The health benefits of weightlifting are too numerous to let this misconception stand.

The reality is there are plenty of weightlifting routines that can be completed in under 40 minutes, and that only consist of lifting weights two or three days per week.

These “shortened” routines have big benefits. They keep you from overtraining, so you feel fresh for each workout, and your body is able to recover. Using a two or three-day routine allows busy professionals to lift weights, even with a hectic work and personal schedule.

To help get you started, I’ve put together three weightlifting routines that require minimal time commitment. These are great routines for anyone:

Male or female. Doesn’t matter.

Lifting newbie, or former high school athlete getting back into shape. Doesn’t matter.

Lawyer, physician, pharmacist, engineer, programmer, CEO. Doesn’t matter.

These routines are short, simple, and, most importantly, they work.

Notes

1. The first exercise is your main lift.

The first exercise listed in the routine is your main lift.

This gets your full focus. This lift is what you come to the gym for. No matter what else happens, you do this lift, and you bust ass doing it. Your 1st, 2nd, and 3rd goal is to get stronger at this lift. You do NOT skip this exercise.

If you only do one thing at the gym, it’s this lift.

Rest 2 minutes between sets on your main lift.

2. The other exercises are accessory lifts.

Accessory lifts are important. They’re just not your main lift. They aren’t your primary focus. If you get paged to come in to work, or your partner needs you home NOW, these are the lifts you skip.

Your goal is still to increase the weight used on accessory lift. But, your energy and focus should be directed at the main lift. If you’re increasing the weight used on accessory lifts every week, you either aren’t using enough weight, or you’re not pushing yourself hard enough at your main lift.

Rest 30 – 45 seconds between sets on your accessory lifts.

Routine #1 – Two days per week

Full body Day 1

  • Squats 2×5
  • Leg curls 3×12
  • BB Bench Press 2×6
  • DB shoulder press 2×12
  • Chin-ups 2x failure
  • Weighted decline sit-ups 2×15

Full body Day 2

  • Deadlifts 2×4
  • Leg Press 1×20
  • Weighted dips 2×8
  • Pull-ups 2x failure
  • BB Curls 2×15
  • Ab machine 3×20

Don’t have a gym? Here’s a routine that only uses bodyweight exercises.

Routine #2 – Two days per week, bodyweight exercises only

Full body Day 1

Full body Day 2

  • Split-leg squats 2×15
  • Squat jumps 3×20
  • Dips 3xfailure
  • Handstand push-ups 3×15
  • Plank 2xfailure

Routine #3 – Three days per week

Day 1 – Legs

  • Squats 2×5
  • Leg press 1×20
  • Leg curls 3×15
  • Hip abductor/adductor (alternate each week) 3×20
  • Calf raises 3×20
  • Weighted decline crunches 3×10

Day 2 – Chest/Shoulders

  • BB Bench 2×6
  • BB Bench 1xfailure (increase weight once you get to 20 reps; start low!)
  • Close grip BB bench 3×10
  • Tricep pushdowns 3×20
  • DB seated shoulder press 2×15
  • Ab pulley crunches 3×15

Day 3 – Back/Arms

  • Deadlifts 2×4
  • Lat pulldowns 3×10
  • Machine rows 2×20
  • BB Curls 2×15
  • DB Hammer Curls 3×10
  • Hanging leg raises 3xfailure

Wrapping Up

Contrary to popular belief, weightlifting doesn’t have to consume your life. In fact, less can be more. Utilize lifts that work multiple major muscle groups – squats, deadlifts, bench press, dips, rows, pull-ups, chin-ups – and add in accessory work. You can knock these routines out in 30-40 minutes, and only go to the gym two or three times per week.

You’ll get stronger, leaner, and sexier in the process.

Do you have good two or three-day weightlifting routines? Share them in the comments below!

Mythbusting – Women, Weightlifting, and Getting “Bulky”

Mythbusting – Women, Weightlifting, and Getting “Bulky”

I could read her response before the words left her mouth.

No, I can’t read minds. But I’ve seen this script play out countless times.

I had just advised a female client that, in order to achieve her goals of losing fat and shrinking her waist line, she would benefit from getting stronger, and that lifting weights 1 – 3 days per week would accelerate her progress.

“UGH, nooooo! That will make me all bulky and gross. I don’t want to look like a man!”

So many women believe “lifting weights = bulky”. Why?

Many women are afraid to do any sort of strength training out of a fear of becoming “bulky”, “muscle-y”, or “looking gross”. This is a common – and harmful – misconception. Where does it come from?

1. Bodybuilder stereotypes

Mention weightlifting to almost any woman, and this is what immediately comes to mind:

via shutterstock.com

That’s not an exaggeration – the thought they’ll develop “man-like” huge biceps and chest muscles keeps many women from getting stronger.

This is silly. And is mainly due to..

2. Misunderstanding physiology

Testosterone is a muscle-building hormone produced naturally by both men and women.

However, women only produce a fraction of the amount of testosterone produced by men. Natural (as in those who do not use anabolic substances) female lifters cannot attain the bulky, muscular look achieved by male bodybuilders. It is physiologically impossible.

Dedicated females lift for years and years, getting stronger and stronger, and don’t come remotely close to attaining the muscle size competitive male bodybuilders do. And these are women who are stronger than many men! It’s silly to think that moderate strength training will make you look like a man!

“But what about those female bodybuilders? They’re huge!”

Yes, yes they are. They’ve also dedicated a large portion of their lives to working out – in fact, it may be a full-time job for some. Some are natural, some are “enhanced”. The point is, it takes superior genetics and years of targeted training to achieve the “female bodybuilder” look. These women train 5, 6, even 7 days a week. Strength training 1 – 3 days per week does not even come close to that level of dedication, and will NOT make you “too bulky”.

3. Word of mouth

Blame it on “old wives’ tales”, superstition, or just plain old misinformation. The “lifting = bulky” belief has taken root as factual knowledge that “everyone knows”. Like other closely held beliefs, this makes the misconception even harder to shatter.

The truth: strength training knows no gender.

Lifting weights and getting strong is NOT just for men. In fact, the lifting game works the same for women as it does for men.

Some men lift weights to get bigger – but not all. Some are solely after strength. Some want to maintain their current appearance. Some want to maintain a lean look.

It works the exact same for women!

Want to add muscle?

There’s a weightlifting routine for that.

Want to lose fat?

There’s a weightlifting routine for that.

Gain strength? Be lean? Add curves?

Check. Check. Check.

Not all strength training is created equal. There exists an endless variety of movements and routines that can be used depending on your goals. The commonality is, no matter your goal, YOU can benefit from getting stronger!

Wrapping Up

We’ve addressed reasons why many women hold misconceptions about lifting weights – and busted the myth that weightlifting makes all women bulky.

We’ve discussed that a weightlifting routine can be tailored to YOUR specific goals. So, whether you want to gain muscle, lose fat, or just stay lean and in shape, we can pick and choose exercises to customize your workouts to fit your personal goals.

Don’t let myths stop you from getting the body you deserve!

Let us know – do you have friends or family that think women shouldn’t lift weights? What are some benefits you’ve experienced from strength training?

Lifting for Fat Loss – Less is More

Lifting for Fat Loss – Less is More

Strength training is one of the best tools for shredding fat.

Strength training improves fat loss, improves glucose tolerance, increases metabolism, increases lean muscle mass, and improves body composition. It is one of the best tools we have for fat loss.

Yet when many people decide they want to shed fat, they tend to focus on cardio (vastly overrated – more on that later in a later post) and diet. Why do we neglect strength training?

“I don’t have time to go to the gym and lift weights six days a week!”

There are many misconceptions around strength training – especially lifting weights.

One of the most prominent – and harmful – is the idea that an “ideal” weightlifting routine requires five, six, or even seven days in the gym, every week.

Where does this idea come from? Why do so many of us believe it?

If you’ve ever walked by the magazine rack (yes, these still exist) at a grocery or department store, you’ve likely seen the covers for bodybuilding magazines promoting freakishly huge athletes, with headlines promoting routines “guaranteed” to get you HYOOGE in just six weeks! The articles promote 2+ hour bodybuilding routines, often requiring you to spend every day and every waking hour in the gym. No one has time for that! But, for many people, these magazines are the first introduction to weight lifting.

We also hear this concept from friends and family. Maybe it comes from “that Uncle”, the old football star who never tires of telling about his glory days, notorious for making rants about his seven-day, five-hour high school lifting routine whenever someone makes the mistake of discussing exercise at the Thanksgiving table.

Then there’s the “work one muscle group per day, every day” concept coming from your ripped buddy from college, who never accounts for the sharp decline in flexible free time after graduation (we can’t be too harsh – maybe he still hasn’t graduated).

A Harmful Misconception

The idea that resistance training requires 5 – 7 days per week is very harmful, for several reasons:

1. It leads to overtraining

Overtraining results when the body is pushed and worked too hard, and cannot properly recover from a work out.

When you overtrain, your energy levels decrease, fat loss halts, your mood goes down the toilet, and you lose motivation to workout.

The amount of training your body can handle depends on many factors – genetics, your current stress levels, and nutrition, to name a few. Unless ALL factors are perfectly controlled, there is a strong chance lifting weights seven days per week will quickly tire you out and lead to an overtrained state.

2. Burnout

Burnout and overtraining typically go hand-in-hand. Overtraining refers to the physical stress the body experiences from being pushed beyond its ability to recover. “Burnout” is the mental fatigue that comes along with it.

We experience burnout in many facets of life – burnout from work, burnout from school, burnout from being social. Working out is no different.

I LOVE lifting and being in the gym. Beyond the awesome benefits I derive from it, I really enjoy the experience of being there, pushing myself, trying to be better than my last session. I get sad when I can’t go. It is one of my favorite hobbies.

That being said, I know, from experience, that if I lift more than three or four days per week – four being the MAX – I will burn out. My progress will stall, and I’ll begin to loathe going to the gym. While I’ve gotten good physique results from lifting 6-7 days a week, it’s not worth the mental and physical drain. Remember – this is supposed to be fun!

Through experimenting, I’ve found 3-4 days each week to be my “sweet spot”. This is where we avoid burnout, and strength training continues to be an enjoyable experience.

3. It creates a mental “roadblock”.

Almost all of us know there are benefits to getting stronger. So why do we struggle to get started?

The mountain seems insurmountable, so we don’t get started. We see the “professionals” lifting every day, for hours and hours. It seems like a full-time job. And to them, it IS a full-time job.

We are not Ronnie Coleman, or Lebron James, or J.J. Watt. We are not athletic professionals. We get paid to care for patients, win cases for clients, develop new marketing campaigns, and educate students. We workout to better ourselves – but we have to find time to do so outside our full-time jobs.

You don’t need to spend seven days in the gym to look good, feel good, and perform at the top of your field. Unfortunately, this misconception keeps many from starting in the first place.

The Truth: 120 minutes to a better you

By now, the illusion of needing seven days in the gym per week to look and feel good should be shattered.

Strength training two or three days per week will lead to fat loss, a leaner body, and higher confidence.

Turns out that less can be more. Many of us will see better results lifting two or three days per week compared to six or seven, especially during times of high stress. Our body has finite resources to use for recovery. When we go through a period of high stress, such as an increased work load, or final exams, or having a new child, we have less resources available to recover from exercise.

Muscle growth and fat loss occur outside the gym. Our bodies MUST have adequate time and resources to recover. Otherwise, progress will grind to a halt.

Wrapping Up

You don’t need to work out every day. We can see amazing results from strength training two or three days per week. Strength training will increase your muscle:fat ratio. More muscle = higher metabolism. Higher metabolism = more fat loss. Want to shed fat? Lift weights. Get stronger. Recover hard.

Share with us – what is your experience with working out more vs. less? What works best for you?

Recovering From An Athletic Injury – Real Life Tips

Recovering From An Athletic Injury – Real Life Tips

Injuries are part of the training game.

No matter who you are, or how you train – at some point, you will get injured.

Unfortunately, it’s a matter of when, not if.

Injuries are going to happen – that is beyond our control. What we can control is how we recover from an injury.

Proper recovery is the difference between an injury knocking us out for 3 months versus 6+ months. The following will teach the important steps to follow to make sure your injury recovery goes as smoothly and quickly as possible.

#1 – Rest

This should be #1, #2, and #3. In fact, nothing else on this list matters if #1 is not followed properly.

You MUST rest an injury in order for it to heal.

Resting allows the body to recover. It allows the inflammatory process to play its course, and fix the damage done.

Rest prevents further worsening or aggravating of the injury.

When an injury occurs, one of our first reactions is to downplay the seriousness of it. We walk it off. We push through it. We convince ourselves that the pain is nothing abnormal – just a part of training.

This is a dangerous, damaging mindset. There’s a difference in being sore, and being in pain. You’ll know the pain of an injury when it happens. Listen to your body when it signals it is in pain – it’s time to stop doing whatever is causing pain.

Recovery cannot happen without rest.

#2 – Seek medical advice

Unless you’re a healthcare professional, you are not an expert in injuries. Stop trying to self-diagnose, and go see someone trained in determining what, if anything, is wrong.

Even if you ARE a healthcare professional, get another set of eyes on your injury.

Seeking the opinion of a medical professional helps us start the recovery process as soon as possible. We cannot recover until we know what is wrong.

Delaying this step will delay all aspects of your recovery. So don’t delay. With the growing number of urgent care centers, and extended-hour primary care offices, there’s no excuse.

#3 – Rehab

You’ve properly followed #2, and sought advice from a medical professional. You’ve been assigned rehabilitation work. The worst thing we can do at this point is to not do our assigned rehab work.

Do the fucking rehab work.

Proper rehabilitation is the difference in recovering in 8 weeks versus 16 weeks. Proper rehab makes the difference in coming back near full-strength versus coming back weak and out-of-shape.

Even if your injury is something simple that doesn’t require prescribed rehab work – such as a sprained finger or twisted ankle – it’s important to rehab. After getting cleared by your doctor, put the injury through the full range of motion throughout the day. This keeps blood flowing, prevents loss of flexibility, and prepares the body for training.

#4 – Eat a pro-recovery diet

What you eat affects your ability to recover from injury as quickly as possible. This is NOT the time to let your diet slack!

Good foods to eat include:

  • Omega-3 fats. Sources include fish (salmon, herring, anchovy), fish oils, flaxseed, and omega-3 supplements (any containing DHA, EPA, and/or ALA).
  • Green leafy vegetables: kale, spinach, collard greens.
  • Nuts, including almonds and walnuts.
  • Olive oil.

Foods to avoid include:

  • Omega-6 fats: vegetable oils are a huge culprit here.
  • Sugars and starches: candy, bagels, cakes, bread, the list goes on and on.

#5 – Stretch and hit the foam roller

Avoid this step if you are specifically instructed NOT to stretch by your doctor, or if it causes pain.

Assuming the above doesn’t apply to you, you’ll want to stretch and foam roll while you’re injured.

When we’re injured, there’s momentum to stop moving. When you don’t move, your body gets stiff. You lose flexibility. This leads to mobility issues when you try to start training.

To prevent this, it’s important to keep up with stretching and mobility work. In fact, you should strongly consider increasing the amount of mobility and recovery work you do. Stretch twice as long. Foam roll twice a day. Keep your body flexible, and you’ll find your recovery will go much smoother.

#6 – Sleep

Your body recovers while you’re asleep. Many recovery processes do not occur until we’re asleep – and if we don’t sleep enough, they don’t occur at all!

A lack of sleep is damaging enough when we’re healthy. When we’re injured, not getting enough sleep is like pouring gasoline on a fire. You’re doubling down on the damage.

#7 – Avoid aggravating the injury

You’d think something this simple wouldn’t need to be said. You’d be wrong.

As we discussed above, one of our first reactions to an injury is to downplay the seriousness of it. We walk it off. We push through it.

Aggravating an injury resets your recovery to day zero. You basically have to start all over.

It’s like typing a long essay assignment, not saving, and intentionally closing Word.

You wouldn’t intentionally erase an entire document you worked hard on. Don’t intentionally erase your recovery progress by continuing to do movements that caused your injury and aggravate it further.

#8 – Work back slowly

One of the worst mistakes we can make after a period off of training – in this case, because of injury – is to try and come back where we left off, as if nothing happened. We don’t like to hear it, but we need to coax our way back to full strength. Do not try and pick your training up where you left off.

Squatting 225 for reps? Start back at 135 and work up.

Running 4 miles? Start at one mile.

Don’t go through the recovery process just to re-injure yourself because your ego can’t handle starting back at a lower intensity.

Wrapping Up

Injuries suck. There’s no way around it. Exercise releases chemicals that make us feel good about ourselves. It’s no joke to say that we go through “withdrawal” when we’re injured and can’t exercise.

This article detailed important steps to take to ensure your recovery process is as smooth and quick as possible. It can be to dial things back while injured, but it’s essential to coming back at 100%. Ignore this advice at your own peril.

What helps you recover from injury? Share your tips and inside advice with us below!

Lessons Learned – Injury Recovery in 2016 vs 2012

Lessons Learned – Injury Recovery in 2016 vs 2012

I’m no stranger to surgery.

Whether you’re a competitive athlete or work out to stay in shape and prevent disease, injuries are a part of the game. Injury recovery is a skill which can be sharpened and improved, if you take the right approach.

I’ve had two major surgeries in the past four years, both of which had a huge impact on my life – including my training and nutrition.

This post details the different approaches I took, pre- and post-surgery, and the differences in my recovery, mental state of mind, and my body.

2012 – Shoulder Labrum Tear

Early in 2012, I tore the labrum in my left shoulder doing guillotine presses. This is a story of multiple injury recovery mistakes, which cumulatively led to me being out of the gym longer than necessary, gaining fat, and feeling my mood go down the toilet.

Mistake #1 – Not listening to my body.

I noticed a slight discomfort each time I did the lift, but chalked it up to the nuances of a new movement. This discomfort slowly turned to pain, and, one day in March, I felt a “pop” in the shoulder, felt a dull pain, and knew something was wrong.

There is a difference in feeling sore and feeling pain. The first time I felt discomfort, I should have stopped. Instead, I let my ego get the best of me. I kept adding weight until my shoulder broke under the pressure. Listen to your body.

Mistake #2 – Waiting too long to get care.

The discomfort started in January. The “pop” happened in March. I didn’t see a physician until May.

Why?

Part of it was denial. I knew I was hurt, but didn’t want to face reality. I knew I’d need surgery. I knew I’d be out of the gym for awhile. I knew I’d be in a cast during pool season. I avoided reality and lived in a fake world I created for myself, where my injury would magically heal itself.

When your body goes away from baseline, its time to take things out of your hands, and into those of a trained medical professional. Injury recovery is much easier when you trust it to a trained professional.

Mistake #3 – Letting nutrition go to shit post-surgery.

When we face a long period away from exercise, we have two options regarding nutrition. We can continue to eat food that is good for us – maybe even double down on good eating habits – or, we can say “fuck it”, throw inhibition to the wind, and unleash our inner glutton.

Unfortunately, I chose the latter.

I went out 3-4 nights a week (it was my last summer before pharmacy school – “why not enjoy your last go around?”, I told myself). I consistently hit up Tolly Ho and Qdoba at 4am. I ate Dairy Queen, by myself, for lunch on the reg.

This completely violated many of the nutrition principles I swear by. I couldn’t train, and I let my nutrition slide as well.

The End Result – Bad mood, bad attitude, bad body.

The cumulative effect of these key three mistakes was a negative impact on my body, and a negative impact on my mind.

My mood and attitude are easily affected by the image I hold of my physical self. My body is important to me, and it’s important to me that it looks good. The combination of 1) not working out and 2) eating like shit resulted in 3) me feeling like shit.

Let’s compare my 2012 experience with my most recent injury, and my improved approach to injury recovery.

2016 – Inguinal Hernia

Admittedly, this injury was much easier to notice – and much harder to ignore – than a labrum tear. A torn labrum hurts, but you can’t see it – an inguinal hernia stares you straight in the face. You see it every time you piss. You feel it every step you take.

Still, I had plenty of lessons to prove I had learned nothing.

#1 – I listened to my body.

This time, there were no denials. I knew something was up. I immediately ceased doing anything that aggravated my pain. I applied ice around the clock. I rested.

#2 – I did not delay seeking (and getting) care

An hour after noticing the lump in my groin, I was inside an urgent care facility. Two weeks later, I was in the surgeon’s office. 19 days after first noticing symptoms, I was going under the knife.

This didn’t just “happen”. You know the saying, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”? Unfortunately, the American health care system tends to work the same way (trust me, I work in it).

I called two urgent treatment clinics. I filled out numerous forms requesting an appointment with a surgeon. I did not exaggerate my condition, but I made sure they were aware of the physical pain, as well as the negative mental and emotional drain this had on my life. When I saw the surgeon, I kept pushing for the soonest available appointment. I assertively made it known I needed this fixed fast. The original plan was surgery four weeks after the appointment, but, the surgeon was able to find an opening 7 days away. I was warned I may get “bumped” off if other surgeries went over time, but it was a risk I was willing to take.

#3 – I doubled down on nutrition after surgery.

Surgery causes pain. A LOT of physical pain, and the mental pain that comes from being bedridden, unable to do, well, basically anything.

The last thing I wanted to do was make this pain worse. I knew I had to avoid my previous mistake of eating like shit.

Instead of using surgery as an excuse to go lax on nutrition, I got more focused. I paid attention to my body.

I stuck almost exclusively to lean meat (lower calorie content versus fattier cuts of beef), eggs, and vegetables. Since I wasn’t exercising, my caloric and carbohydrate needs were drastically reduced compared to normal. This disciplined approach to eating paid off in a big way.

The end result: I lost 10 pounds in four weeks without exercising.

Wrapping Up

There’s no way around it: surgery sucks. Being unable to exercise sucks. It’s easy to fall into the “why me?” mentality, to feel sorry for yourself. It’s easy to throw your hands up in the air, scream “FORGET IT!”, and stop taking care of yourself, because you’re so frustrated with a setback.

Trust me, I know. I’ve been there. And I’m writing today in hopes that I can help you avoid the mistakes I made.

Listen to your body. Get care as soon as you notice something is off. In the unfortunate case that you’ll be sidelined for a bit, use the opportunity to be more disciplined with your nutrition. You’ll recover faster, look better, and feel happier.

How I Lost 10 Pounds in Four Weeks Without Exercise

How I Lost 10 Pounds in Four Weeks Without Exercise

Losing fat without exercising is easy – when you do it right.

When a friend tells you they’re trying to lose weight, what’s the first thing they say?

“I’m going to run every day!”

“I’ve started this weightlifting routine. I’m going five times a week now.”

“I want to lose five pounds. I just really need to start exercising.”

When we eat something we “know” is “bad” for us – how do we justify it?

“I’ll be running this off later!” “That’s an extra mile on the treadmill!”

What’s the theme here?

The focus is on exercise. Nobody focuses on food!

There’s a myriad of reasons for this (insert link). Exercise is fun, “dieting” is not. Exercise adds something to our life, “dieting” takes something away.

This post is not intended to vilify exercise.

When our goal is fat loss, our first action is to put 80% of our efforts into exercise, and 20% into our food.

Which is unfortunate, as 80% of our results will come from food – NOT exercise. I’m going to highlight a recent example from my own life to illustrate this point.

Four Weeks, No Exercise, 10 Pounds Lighter

In late June 2016, I developed a bilateral inguinal hernia. I went under the surgical knife for repairs in July. I was not cleared to exercise until August 19th.

During this time – which spanned the initial injury, surgery, and recovery – I did not exercise.

Pre-surgery, I couldn’t walk more than a few feet without feeling pain and discomfort in my groin. Post-surgery…well, I was still in pain, and had to wait to be cleared to return to “normal activity”. That’s a long way of saying I sat around a lot for several weeks.

Oh, and I went to Vegas, where I was doing anything BUT counting calories.

For fun, I weighed myself the morning before my follow-up appointment. Prior to the injury, I weighed around 170 pounds.

Conventional wisdom says I should be heavier. Stepping on the scale, the numbers flashed right in front of me. Despite living on the couch for weeks, I weighed 160 pounds.

Here are the before and after weigh-ins:

Before
                Before
After
                  After

My “Secret” For Success

How did this happen? How did I lose fat without exercising?

Did I really lose muscle and gain fain? (No.)

Do I just have really great athletic genetics? (Ha!).

I lost weight without exercise because I paid close attention to what I ate.

Without exercise, my carbohydrate needs dropped drastically. Your body can convert dietary fats and proteins into carbohydrates for energy. Your body cannot convert excess carbohydrates into anything but fat.

If your energy needs are met, excess carbs turn into fat. If your energy needs are low, your carbohydrate need is lower.

So, I ruthlessly cut my carbohydrate intake. My diet was about 50% fat, 40% protein, and 10% carbs, all of which came from vegetables or greek yogurt. Two or three times a week, I had a small amount of legumes. Two or three times per week, I threw these guidelines aside and ate what I wanted – I always saved this for a social occasion. Like the weekend I said “fuck it” and went to Vegas for a friend’s bachelor party.

Diet? What diet?
             Diet? What diet?

Here’s a look at typical meals I ate:InjuryDiet_Breakfast InjuryDiet_LunchInjuryDiet_Dinner

Most days, I didn’t track calories. I’d check in once a week to get a feel for my numbers, but beyond that, there was no need. I knew that, by sticking to a variety of meats, vegetables, eggs, and yogurts, I’d lose fat without having to count calories.

Wrapping Up

Exercise is a great tool for heart health, building muscle, being happier. It has tons of benefits, and should not be neglected.

Exercise is also overrated for fat loss.

Maybe you’ve heard the expression, “you can’t outrun a bad diet”. Maybe you’ve lived it yourself.

I lost 10 pounds, without exercising once, by ruthlessly cutting sugar, wheat, and other simple carbohydrates.

If your goal is fat loss, food needs to be your first, second, and third priority.

We want to know – have you ever lost fat while injured? What’s your success story?

7 Common Nutrition Mistakes We All Make

7 Common Nutrition Mistakes We All Make

Eating delicious, good food doesn’t have to be hard.

Done correctly, eating well helps us live longer, be healthier, and better appreciate the world around us.

Often times, we start our journey ambitious – too ambitious. With good intention, we sometimes take our new eating habits too far. Avoiding the 7 common diet mistakes below will lead to less frustration and better results.

1. Eating NO carbs.

Low-carb and no-carb diets are quickly moving out of the “fad diet” realm and into mainstream popularity. Scientific research is even beginning to catch on.

Known by many names (Adkins, ketogenic, etc.), these diets are very popular among both bodybuilders and anyone looking to shed body fat for a reason. Going no or very-low carb can be very effective.

However, going low/no-carb is a true test of mental fortitude. These diets are extremely restrictive, and can be very hard to stick to, especially when we’re first starting our transition to eating better foods. Even professional athletes struggle with restrictive diets, and cycle on and off from them depending on the season.

The first few days of a no/low-carb diet are rough – brain fog, headaches, and crankiness are common. Google “low carb flu” if you’ve never heard the term before. You’ve likely heard about similar symptoms from friends who have tried these diets.

A good alternative is to start by identifying and eliminating “bad” carbs in your diet – such as processed foods (nearly anything that comes from a box or from the middle aisles of the grocery store), sugar, white flour, and white starches, while keeping “good” carb sources – sweet potatoes, vegetables, legumes, and yogurt, to name a few.

Try this out:

  1. Track your average carb intake the week before beginning your new eating habits.
  2. Instead of lowering your carb intake, switch your carb sources to “good” carbs while keeping your total carbohydrate intake the same.
  3. Then, over time, you can slowly lower your carb intake, until you find the “sweet spot”, where you’re losing fat while maintaining healthy mood and energy levels.

Transitioning to “good” carb sources will help you avoid the “low carb flu” while shedding body fat.

2. Tracking Every. Single. Calorie.

Calorie-tracking apps have soared in popularity. MyFitnessPal claims over 40 million users. Calorie-tracking is no longer viewed as “weird”, and with food databases expanding every day, it’s never been easier to keep track of what you’re putting into your body.

However, just because we can track everything we put into our body doesn’t mean we should.

Trying to track literally every calorie you consume can be tiresome. Imagine cooking dinner for you and your partner. Candles are lit, wine is poured, Rod Stewart is crooning in the background – and as you begin to fill the plates, your partner leaps forward – “WAIT!! YOU DIDN’T MEASURE OUT THE CORN!”

Total mood-killer.

Tracking your calories is a great habit to form, but don’t let it lead to diet-OCD, and don’t let it control your life. What is the carb and calorie difference between 1 cup and 2 cups of broccoli? Did I eat 8 almonds or 9?WHO CARES?!

Get it in the ballpark, stay consistent, and you’ll be fine. Besides, nutrition fact labels and calorie counts aren’t 100% exact science anyway.

3. Trying to eat exclusively organic, grass-fed, non-GMO, etc.

From a science perspective, I’m not touching the “GMO vs. non-GMO” debate with a ten-foot pole.

Eating exclusively organic vegetables, grass-fed meat, and eggs from cage-free chickens, is expensive. It can get so expensive, in fact, that it’s a common deterrent to people interested in eating better foods, as they convince themselves that they cannot afford it and simply give up.

I buy non-organic produce. I buy corn-fed beef and chicken pumped full of antibiotics. It’s what I can afford, and it’s still WAY better than eating the Standard American Diet of processed foods and sugar.

Don’t let money be the reason you consume suboptimal junk food. Eating “normal” produce and meat won’t stop you from shedding body fat.

4. Buying “gluten-free” or “non-GMO” food that isn’t actually healthy.

“Gluten-free” chocolate cake is still chocolate cake. “Gluten-free” carbs are still carbs. You can eat all the “gluten-free” cookies you want, but you’re not going to lose weight simply because the box says “gluten-free”. Unless you have been diagnosed with celiac disease or have a true gluten sensitivity, you’re just spending more money for food that still makes you fat.

A good rule of thumb for buying food – stick to the outer aisles of the store. This is where the produce and meat are kept. Ignore food that comes in a box as much as possible and you’ll automatically be better off than most.

5. Only focusing on calorie intake and ignoring macronutrients.

A calorie is not a calorie.

Calories come from three main macronutrients: proteins, fats, and carbohydrates (alcohol is the fourth and we’ll exempt it from this discussion).

We cannot treat each calorie equally. Eating 1,000 calories per day, consistently solely of carbohydrates, will lead to weight loss – but there is a minimal chance it will lead to fat loss, which is what we’re actually after. There’s a huge difference in consuming 2,000 calories composed of 65% carbohydrates, 30% fats, and 5% proteins versus 2,000 calories consisting of 40% proteins, 30% fats, and 30% carbohydrates. Our bodies digest each of these “types” of calories differently. Each “type” of calorie triggers the release or  blocking of different hormones.

Tracking your daily caloric intake is a great habit to establish – but neglecting macronutrient intake will hamper your progress.

6. Making too many changes at once.

Trying to make too many changes at once can be detrimental for several reasons.

Most importantly: the more changes you attempt to make at once, the harder it is to maintain said changes.

Think back to that time you made a health-related New Year’s Resolution. We’ve all done it.

This was the time to GO BIG! We weren’t “just” going to drink more water, or start exercising – we’re drinking 128oz of water daily, AND lifting weights 6 days per week, AND running 3 miles per day, AND doing yoga for 30 minutes every evening, AND eating exclusively Paleo AND not drinking alcohol AND juicing EVERY. SINGLE. MORNING. WE GETTIN’ SHREDDED!

How’d that work out?

Making ONE new habit or lifestyle change at a time significantly increases the likelihood that the change sticks and becomes incorporated into your identity. This is important, because we aren’t looking for “quick fixes” or “instant results in just six weeks!” We are building a better lifestyle. We are in this for the long haul.

7. Not tracking your progress and results.

You know how the saying goes:

“You can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been”.

When it comes to building healthy habits and designing a better lifestyle, it is essential to know:

  1. Where you’ve been.
  2. Where you are.
  3. Where you plan to be.

One surefire way to make healthy living harder on yourself is to not track your progress. This makes it impossible to know what works and what does NOT work for you.

Let’s say Cousin Vinnie claims he lost 15 pounds in two weeks by eating less than 20g of carbs per day. Great! But does it work for you?

There’s only one way to find out – experiment! Do the following:

  1. Measure Variable X (weight, body fat percentage, 1-rep bench max, 1-mile running time, whatever) on Day 0.
  2. On Day 1, begin Habit Change Y (keeping carb intake to under 20g per day, drinking 64oz of water, etc.)
  3. On Day 14, re-measure Variable X. Compare new Variable X to the measurement on Day 0. Did it getter better, get worse, or stay the same?

We now have solid evidence we can use to determine if Habit Change Y works best for us. We do not have this evidence if we do not track our progress and results.

Wrapping Up

This post should give you a good understanding of seven common eating well mistakes we make when trying to change our eating habits. In a previous post, we discussed why eating too “healthy” can be detrimental to your goals and cause more harm than good. In my next post, we’ll go over ways to avoid common food mistakes and ensure you get the results you are after.

I want to know – what common mistakes have you made when trying to eat “healthy”? Share in the comments below!

Avoid Eating Too Healthy – It’s Easier Than You Think

Avoid Eating Too Healthy – It’s Easier Than You Think

Eating delicious, nourishing food is simple. Don’t overthink it.

Recently, we discussed why eating too healthy halts fat loss in its tracks, and why we are so prone to making this mistake.

In brief, eating healthy disrupts you – mentally, socially, physiologically. The quest for fat loss shouldn’t turn into an obsession over food.

It’s easy to see why this happens – we all want results, as quickly as possible. Why spend 6 months losing fat if you can do it in 6 weeks? The logic is easy to understand. But it is flawed. Fat loss comes from creating new habits, not from crash or fad diets.

So, now that we know eating healthy should be avoided, how do we do it? By keeping the following five bits of advice in mind, you’ll create a mindset that allows you to lose fat without compromising your happiness.

1) Follow the 80/20 principle.

I mentioned the 80/20 principle in my post on why eating too healthy kills fat loss. It’s a great tool for maintaining balance in your meals, essential to eating well.

Make 80% of your meals “healthy”, and 20% “cheat” meals. If you eat 21 meals per week, that gives you four cheat meals each week. I hate using “healthy” and “cheat” to describe meals, but it’s the best way to illustrate this point.

These numbers can be flexible. Some weeks I eat one cheat meal. Some weeks I have five or even six; this often occurs when special events are happening, such as attending weddings or banquet dinners, or when I go home to see my parents. By exercising moderation and not pigging out, I often end up just as lean afterwards, and recharge my motivation to eat well.

Don’t miss out on important events because of a fear of “bad” foods. Make eating well the “norm” while allowing flexibility in your life.

2) Keep things in perspective.

Eating delicious, nutritious food should not be a barrier to living a good life.

If you find eating well to be a barrier rather than a springboard, it’s time to re-evaluate your situation. Where is the majority of your eating-related stress being created, and how can you alleviate it?

For example – if your job involves taking clients out to eat, find ways to eat well at the restaurant. Look up the menu ahead of time. Restaurants are getting very creative with their salads (check out the “Sriracha Steak Salad” from my local Movie Tavern if you don’t believe me). Salad isn’t your thing? Grab a meat + veggies combo. This situation should NOT be stressful – I love trying new restaurants, and there is always a delicious meal available that also nourishes your body.

3) Transition into new eating habits.

The worst thing we do when trying to eat well – or start any new habit – is go from 0 to 100, way too quick. Instead of setting a simple goal and gradually expanding on it, we go from never working out to lifting weights 7 days a week while running 10 miles and doing a month-long juice cleanse.

And then we’re dumbfounded when our new habits don’t stick.

We’re not searching for a quick fix. We are building habits into our identity and lifestyle.

Habits are not built overnight. They take time. We must ease into new habits, rather than diving in head-first. The long-term payoff is much, much higher, and worth investing in.

For example – in the long-term, we want to minimize use of sauces high in sugar, especially high fructose corn syrup. However, I will never recommend a client who is just learning to cook meat and taking the beginner steps to eating well to cut out barbecue sauce as a first step. It’s no where near the top of my priority list. Grilled chicken topped with Sweet Baby Ray’s still contains WAY less sugar and processed ingredients compared to the Standard American Diet.

Transition into your new eating habits. Focus on the wins – the good foods you are adding; do not exert energy on strictly eliminating every single food you enjoy from Day 1.

4) Take time to experiment.

Too often, eating well comes across as a chore. Another thing we are “supposed” to do that we really don’t want to do.

This is so wrong. Food should be fun. Don’t make it a source of stress!

One of the best ways to keep food interesting is experimentation. Try new foods! Cook old foods a different way. Throw different vegetables into your stir-fry.

In the beginning, we focus on establishing a set of foods and meals you like to keep in “rotation”. These are go-to meals for when you need nourishment, when your primary focus is work or family, and you just need to eat and move on. Our “rotation” meals save us time and energy while still providing delicious, nutrient-rich meals.

This saves time and willpower for experimenting with new foods – a great way to spend an evening with your spouse, or with your roommates.

5) Listen to your body.

Whether you’re listening or not, your body is communicating to you, 24/7.

It communicates by shedding fat – or storing more. It communicates by a settled stomach after a meal – or through heartburn. It communicates through increased energy levels – or afternoon crashes.

Pay attention to the queues your body gives. If you’ve lost 10 pounds after dieting for 12 weeks, and notice that, after a nice long period of leaning out, your progress has stalled, likely your body communicating that it needs a break. Time to take a week off and indulge!

Listen to your body, and track what it is telling you. Record your fat loss. Pay attention to your energy levels. Connect the dots between the actions that result in improvement and those that stall your progress.

Find what works for you – “N = 1” can be very powerful – and stick to it.

Wrapping Up

The hardest part about eating well – or starting any new lifestyle habit – is staying consistent. By using the techniques we’ve discussed to avoid the mistake of eating too healthy, we can avoid burning out, and instead design our eating habits to design the lifestyle we desire. Empower your food to empower you.

What techniques have you used to avoid eating too “healthy” and build new habits? I’d love to know – share in the comments below!