Getting Lean and Staying Lean

One of the reasons why I love getting regular BodPods is that it gives me direct feedback on the various experiments I try.  I needed a 30 day Paleo Challenge like I needed a hole in my head but I did think it was a great opportunity to put on some muscle (it was a challenge through my gym, I did it mostly in support of my friends).  Let me throw out a caveat for context though, when I BodPod’ed in December the goal was to make a grand statement and I did that.  The following weekend was Date weekend and I was back at 155 (up from the 149.5 at 9.1%).  Clearly much of that was just excessive water from Carbs and most of the Holiday’s I ate pretty unrestricted.  I knew at that time I wanted to slow bulk after the 17th so none of this bothered me.  Even when I weighed 162 weighing in for the Challenge.  After 2 days I had flushed my system and I was at 156.  Which incidentally is one pound lower than I weighed in at yesterday, since I gained one pound of muscle this all makes sense.  It would be too easy and too simplistic to say that I gained 6 pounds of fat over the holiday’s, the body doesn’t work like that.  When I saw that my weight went down so dramatically so quickly I wanted to make sure I was staying mostly anabolic so I ate slightly more.  I didn’t weigh myself often, especially early but towards the end I noticed I was staying in a range between 157 and 162.

This is what I did not know and this is why the BodPod info is so helpful and I highly recommend it.  I did not know the rate at which I could gain muscle and since that varies greatly I still do not.  I can not for instance say that every 45 days I will gain 1 pound of muscle because there are a lot of factors that come into play (diminishing returns, lack of rest, sickness et al).  What does seem crystal clear FOR ME (notice the emphasis) is that I can not push the pedal on muscle gain, the difference between this time where I was fairly aggressive eating a bit more calories and eating normal was only nominal if at all.

So where do I go from here

One of the things I hate about boxed systems or specific calorie plans is that they are too limiting, I like to adjust my plans as I adjust my goals.  The one thing I have not had in the past that I want to have now is patience.  So it would be insincere of me to suddenly start one of those plans when I have said over and over that it does not need to happen.  The final weigh in for the Paleo Challenge is on Friday, so basically my plan is to extend the challenge until Friday morning.  Since I have already BodPod’ed and know the results for lean mass there is no point in worrying about that any longer.  For myself and my goals it’s pretty clear muscle gain is just going to be a patience thing, I am just going to be better off remaining sub 10% and slowly gaining without wild fluctuations.  So my plan is to do what I recommend for everyone else, the last 2 days going up until the end of the challenge I will lean out, no nuts, no dessert maybe a banana before bed for some pre-bedtime carbs.  NOTICE THE “FOR 2 DAYS”.  I will evaluate at that point and I doubt I will mobilize a ton of fat but it will be noticeable.  What I will not do is compromise my eating habits for workout days but I will likely not have dessert for those two days and possibly no nuts but I will still have my sweet potatoes to address glycogen depletion.

My meals are going to be pretty simple those last two days, lots of chicken and tuna and lot’s of veggies while limiting fruit.  So basically I will have 2 gigantic nutrient dense salads both days.

My plan after that is to simply eat normally and add in 3-5 day periods where I don’t eat nuts or dessert until I am around 8%.  Basically I will follow the rules of the Lean You 10 day challenge during those times.

Something I will add

As most people know I am not a fan of supplements for various reasons, I take BCAA’s as a measure of insurance when I train fasted but other than that not much at all.  That changes tomorrow.  I am going to add Unflavored Whey coming out of my fast and I will eat/drink it 30 minutes before I eat my first meal.  Technically the Whey will break my fast because of the calories, that does not matter to me near us much as the uptake.  Because it will be my first meal the nutrient uptake should be pretty good.  While the insulin spike from whey is relatively substantial this is the best time of day for my body to handle that.

Old Dog with new tricks

I would be kidding myself to think age was not a factor in this process.  At 43 your body just responds differently than say 23, a 23 year old that ate like I did would have exploded with muscle.  Add to the fact that I do not just strength train and you have another part of the answer.  I am absolutely certain that if I just lifted weights RPT style that would help a bit, maybe even get me one more pound of muscle in say 45 days, who knows.  For me I do not care.  I do Crossfit because I like going to the gym when I do it, is it the absolute best protocol for muscle building? I do not think it is.  But gaining lean mass is only part of the equation for my goals.  I am planning on adding in long runs on Sunday’s and continue on my 3 on 1 off schedule at Crossfit.  Mostly because that is what I enjoy doing, the runs are prepping for ToughMudder but I wouldn’t rule out a half marathon or a marathon somewhere down the line.

Getting lean and staying lean

The other thing this time taught me was that getting lean and subsequently staying lean is just a whole lot easier than gaining muscle.  So rather than be burdened by some expectations of that I should weigh this or that I am going to get to the level I would like, no matter what that weight is and try to stick with a real steady pace.

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Why Skinny people hold the answer to Obesity

In this documentary researchers take a small group of thin people and intentionally try to get them fat with some interesting conclusions.  It is both enlightening and baffling at times but the overall theme is incredibly relevant.














Posted in paleo diets, weight loss | 2 Comments

What would I have done differently?

It has been close to a week since I started posting pictures of my one year journey that I called Fat to Fit.  In the last week I decided to lose the scale, eat until I was full and focus more on my new lifestyle.  Armed with the knowledge I have things just are a whole lot easier.  I can not recall if someone asked me this or whether or not it is just a recurring theme in my head but the question is simple, if I could do it all over again what would I do differently? For the purpose of my answer I am going to assume that I know all that I know now because anyone asking the question can clearly read this blog and know the three things I consider important eating a mostly anti-inflammatory diet (90% of the deal folks, ask any personal trainer), crossfitting (not for everyone but there are certain rules of activity you should always include) and intermittent fasting.

The answer is simple, I would take my time and do things a whole lot slower.  

As someone who felt the mental and physical pain of being heavy I know what it’s like to want to see what the other side is like.  So I completely get that but in the end when I look at my body now as opposed to the way I used to feel about myself it is not dramatically different.  What has changed however is that I am content because I am armed with knowledge of what works for me whereas before I was baffled.

Why Weight Watchers, Slimfast, P90x2 and many other things miss the point

People want a boxed system, they want to look at a picture and say “I would like to look like that” (or at least some approximation) as someone who actually looks like that now I can say that the quickest path to that point is to own your health (do people really think Jillian Michaels eats all that processed low calorie stuff she hawks, I assure it would be rare at best).  Sure it takes some initiative to pull out your credit card and order that nutri-system box but once those boxes stop coming all of your bad habits are still there.  The same could be said for hiring a personal trainer, sure having some guy blow smoke up your ass for $80 an hour is helpful but that gets expensive.  The fitness world preys on people’s insecurities and sells you on a concept that is part motivational speech nonsense, part low calorie low nutrient nonsense but mostly what you are being sold is a lie.  Remember processed boxed crap is what got you here in the first place so more processed box crap is not the answer.

On a typical day I eat full fat nutrient dense foods for volume.  I eat until I am full because the foods I eat are good for me and add to my goals without detracting.  Occasionally I enjoy all of the things everyone else enjoys, actually from what I can tell I do it more often than most people.  People much larger than I am are astounded at the amounts of food I have to eat.

The amount of pain you are in is directly equal to how much you will pay 

Actually it might be more.  So here is the question you need to ask everyone before you start whatever journey they think is worth $xxxx.00.  What is the end game? I get this is where I am going to start (I am looking at you boot camps) but if the end game has me on a treadmill for 1 hour a day 5 days a week all alone do not sign up for that plan.  Similarly if whatever boxed plan that is nutrient deficient and will be a battle of your will to the end does not answer “you will be eating a lot more lean meats, fruits and veggies” it is a fucking scam! There is just no other way to say that.  The answer is not a short cut, the answer is changing your life completely, which probably seems like a lot of work but as someone that is on the other side now I can tell it is surprisingly worth it for more than one reason.  I am not just thinner, I have better skin, I am less emotional, I handle stress better, my sex life is phenomenal and my confidence is centered in something very real.  That is what’s on the other side assuming you resolve yourself to a slower more deliberate approach and fewer shortcuts.

Posted in artificial sweetners, crossfit, leangains, nutrition, paleo diets, personal training, protein supplements, weight loss | Leave a comment

Nutrition On Ramp – The Lean You Challenge

At a lot of gyms there are programs called “On Ramp”, these programs gradually expose people just joining the gym to elements of their future training, that is what this nutrition program is meant to do.  So the basic idea of this challenge is simple, you will eat a diet high in good fats (mostly Omega 3’s), protein and clean carbs, you are also welcome to eat at a slight deficit if you choose but I would not recommend it, at least not for 10 days.  So here is your mission:

For 10 days you will eat foods from the anti-inflammatory list, I will explain the value of that in a bit.  Feel free to suggest foods (use comments) that might be regional and not on the list and I will try to add them.

Changing what you eat sucks, join the “Lean You” group on Facebook to help with support, not everyone is doing the challenge all the time but everyone is supportive, it’s also a private group so your posts will not show up on your regular news feed.

Here is that list:

Clean Eating Anti-Inflammatory List 

If you do not know if it is on the list or not here is are the simple questions you need to ask yourself, “is it a grain?” (it shouldn’t be), is it a bean (sorry peanut butter fans, peanuts are beans, beans have gut binding lectins and for this challenge they are a no go), is it dairy (I know this one sucks for a lot of people but once again it’s only 10 days).

You might be thinking of a few questions

So why the hell would I ever want to do this? 

It’s simple, not only will you be able to eat a much greater volume than you are doing now but you will lose weight even if you eat the exact same amount of calories not following the foods on this list.  How is that even possible? Currently if you are eating foods that inflame you that inflammation is simply fluids, your body is on a constant mission to get rid of extra fluids it does not need.  The only problem is that you keep putting more foods into your body that never completely allows it to heal properly.

Said another way it is possible that you will lose fat once your body is more capable of healing itself.  Besides the point of this exercise is not to lose fat, it is to expose you to the fact that your body is just more comfortable eating real foods.

But I workout, or I am on Weight Watchers (or really any other BS reason)? 

Because mixing up your protocol occasionally has metabolic benefits.  This style of eating is very good for you from a health perspective and will certainly help you gain muscle and possibly lose body fat.  (It’s only 10 days so don’t expect miracles, once you are comfortable you can gradually reduce calories if that is important to you)  If you are on Weight Watchers feel free to count points doing this.

But other programs are much longer, why only 10 days? 

If you look at a program like the “Whole 30” on the site it is meant as a means of self discovery and healing for things like gluten allergies and lactose intolerance.  Similarly Mark Sisson’s 21 day transformation is meant to get you into the lifestyle both of those sites suggest.  In the end they would rather you not eat bad foods ever again.  That is not the intent of what I am suggesting.  What I am suggesting is simply meant to clear your body of excess inflammation to allow you to lose weight and possibly expose you to a better way eat regularly while occasionally living life to it’s fullest.

I am not here to worry about this inflammation nonsense, I want to lose body fat?

The fact is simple, when you eat a diet high in inflammation foods your body fat and organs hold on to excess fluid.  This fluid then needs to get flushed out which does not allow the hormones like testosterone and HGH to do the job you want them to do, namely build muscle and burn body fat.  Instead those hormones have to deal with that inflammation.  So ultimately you are here to deal with inflammation you just did not know it.

Ok, I am in but I will need a cheat day.

Are we talking about cream in your coffee or Ben and Jerry’s? Because in my mind that is an important distinction.  Studies have show that inflexible dieting is less effective than diets that are forgiving.  I would much rather see someone keep a few things similar to the “cream in your coffee” example from a comfort standpoint while changing the majority of their habits.  If you want clarification email me or PM me on Facebook.  I will happily give you my opinion.  In the end it all comes down to what will keep you on the best path forward.

Can I drink alcohol?

It is probably best that you do not because drinking will often push you beyond your maintenance calories and compromise the value of what we are trying to accomplish in 10 days.  If you absolutely must have a drink try red wine or tequila.

Won’t I just add back the pounds once I add back in the bad foods?

Yes you will but now that you understand what you are actually doing to your body, retaining fluids and compromising your fat loss goals certainly this should help your path forward.  Said another way when you begin eating like a moron again you probably will not feel all that great and realize exactly how awesome you felt eating clean foods.

This sounds low carb to me, I heard that’s bad for you?

Vegetables and Fruits are carbs.

What about fiber?

Vegetables and Fruits have fiber.

All that meat seems bad for me?

Not only is it good for you assuming you are making the right choices (meaning sticking with meats high in Omega 3’s or eating lean cuts, chewed protein has a great absorption rate and will help build muscle.

Why are grains bad for me?

The simple answer is that grains inflame your body by requiring it to hold onto excessive fluid.  Also as a high glycemic index carbohydrate it spikes your insulin which is a storage hormone.  Since most grains are not very nutrient dense they tend to leave you hungry sooner because of that they carry a high caloric value you are open to storing fat.  To a lesser but not unimportant extent grains also carry with them “gut binding lectins”, rather than getting into a big tutorial about the health effects of lectins I would simply suggest you google the term.  But on just the basis of nutrient density and inflammation grains are not the best choice.  Additionally many people have Gluten allergies that they are not aware of and eating them sparingly or eliminating them altogether can make a big difference for a lot of people.

Why No Beans?

Gut binding lectins is the simple answer, if prepared properly they can be fine but for ten days they should be relatively easy to avoid.

Do I really have to give up Dairy?

You can really make a strong argument that Lactose (which is a sugar) is worse than refined sugar because of the negative effects it has on a lot of people.  Personally I am not lactose intolerant but if I drink too much milk I just do not feel good.  Also since it is a sugar and calorically dense you have similar issues to many of the things that make grains a poor dietary choice.  I eat dairy and drink dairy on occasion but for the purposes of this challenge and the goals we are trying to accomplish it needs to go.

What about Salt? Don’t most anti-inflammation diets say to avoid salt?

Salt or Sodium is interesting because while it technically will cause you to retain more fluids than normal it typically is dealt with quite easily by perspiration during workouts, drinking more water or simply reducing intake the following days.  I say be aware but not a huge issue, besides, you will likely need salt to flavor some of the awesome things you will be cooking.

Aren’t nuts easy to overeat?

Yes, they are also calorically dense so you need to proceed with caution when it comes to nuts and seeds.  Add them to salads and have them on occasion as a treat but don’t be that guy buried underneath a pile of pistachio shells wondering what the hell happened.  Similarly you should probably try to eat the nuts unsalted or lightly salted.  Here is a strategy for eating nuts, do not eat them when you are really hungry, here is an example of what I would do in this instance.  I would eat a spinach salad with a few veggies and a chicken breast and THEN have the nuts, that way you can have a decent portion but will not likely be tempted to overeat since you will be full.

When should I eat carbs?

Personally I like to have a bowl of strawberries, bananas, kiwi and raw cacao nibs as a dessert and as a general rule this is probably the best time to eat carbs, I realize this is contrary to what many have heard but my explanation should make sense.  Carbs, in this case fruits or fructose are relatively high in calories (if you compared them to say spinach).  Additionally fructose is a sugar and we are looking to avoid most sugars, so you want to eat fruits in moderation.  Knowing that they are not very nutrient dense and will likely leave you wanting more shortly I think it is completely logical to have them late in the evening before bed.  The science suggesting otherwise is related to insulin blunting your HGH response which deals with your inflammation, the only problem is that is only the case when you are awake.  When you are asleep your body naturally regulates your insulin to a point where your HGH response can be unimpeded.  So eat your fruity desserts in moderation and about an hour before bed would be my opinion.  I do it and I am pretty ripped.

Posted in crossfit, nutrition, paleo diets, weight loss | Leave a comment

Lean You Anti-Inflammatory Food List

I am going to start with meats and eggs because that is the easiest, I will be adding to this periodically so if you do not see something simply ask in the comments and I will either let you know why it is not on the list or add it.

Wild caught fish (high in Omega 3’s), Cold water fish is higher in O3’s

Grass Fed Beef (high in Omega 3’s, the Omega 3’s matter, do not just eat any beef, if Grass Fed is not available opt for as lean as possible)

Lean cuts of meat (simply lower in fat so inherently not high in Omega 6’s)

Eggs preferrably with Omega 3’s

Simple rule is the darker the better in terms of vitamins and nutrient density, do I really need to say you should have more vegetables than fruits by volume?

Seafood-(Cold Water Fish)









Striped Bass

White Fish



Berries, the darker the better

Pineapple (contains an enzyme Bromelain with excellent healing properties)

Papaya (great for processing protein for muscle development)

Blueberries (anti-oxidants to the max)


goji berries











Coconut (technically can be a nut and seed too)

Bananas (not very nutrient dense and highish in calories, have sparingly)


Cruciferous Vegetables ( Sprouts, Broccoli, Cauliflower and Kale, just to name a few, these are the anti-inflammatory all stars, if you just ate these you would be doing quite well for yourself)


Green Beans

Kale (go to vegetable for salads, lettuce is for wimps)


Spring Onions (mostly green)


Spinach (does it need to be said that Spinach should be a staple food)

Sweet Potatoes (great starchy carb for post workout carb refeeds)


Bell Pepper (all colors)

Bok Choy



Brussell Sprouts

Sour Kraut

Squash (another great starchy refeed option for athletic types)





Chestnuts (great starchy carb for post workout carb refeeds)

Fats and Oils

Clarified Butter or Ghee

Coconut Oil (great for cooking, remains stable at high temperatures)

Coconut Milk (sauces are phenomenal, use this to make curries)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (great for dressings not great for cooking at high temperatures as it loses some of the nutrition value)

Avocado Oil (also a good high temperature option)

Walnut Oil

Grape Seed Oil

Nuts (be careful with nuts, they are calorically dense and often very processed)

Great List

Macadamia Nuts

Hazelnuts and Filberts

These are OK but just don’t eat a ton


Brazil Nuts





Seeds (limit these as well)

Pine Nuts

Sesame Seeds

Pumpkin Seeds

Sunflower Seeds

Hemp Seeds

Flax Seeds

Chia Seeds











Chili Pepper

Cocoa (I love as raw nibs with fruits for desserts in the evenings)



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From Fat to Fit in One year

This is me in Costa Rica a few years back, I know the tendency is to think that someone in this position does not care but I assure you I cared, I just had no clue how to go the other way.

When I was 30 (I am 43 now) My cholesterol was tested at 250, which is not out of control but not great, my Triglycerides were 205 though which meant that I was holding a lot of body fat, I know that now, I really did not know what that meant at the time.

In 2007 I lost about 25 pounds white knuckling it through a low carb diet that left me stressed out and unhappy, once I added the carbs back in the weight came back.

In October of 2009 I got weighed for Life Insurance, I weighed 213 pounds.  Not only had I gained back the pounds I lost but I added 13 pounds.

For more information including free lists of what to eat to get ripped and a great and supportive group, join the LeanYou group on Facebook, it is a private group.

In January of 2010 I resolved to lose weight by basically not eating like a moron any longer.  That did not work what did work was that I was in a motorcycle accident, the people at Reynolds Rehab in Eagan got my ankle healthy and got me moving.

In October 2010 I hired a personal trainer to come to my home to work out both my wife and I, I was convinced if I could keep moving I would lose weight and get healthy.  While it never really worked I got down to 185 pounds and hovered there for quite some time.  While I had lost almost 30 pounds I did not look much different.  It was becoming apparent that there was another level of health that I needed but I genuinely had know clue how to reach that level.  Looking back at how easy it is to maintain my health now I wish everyone could know what I know now.  There would be infinitely less physical and mental pain related to health.

Googling the term “how to lose a double chin” I found the works of Gary Taubes “Why we are fat and what to do about it”.  What I learned is there are no real exercises to lose a double chin, you have to reduce body fat.

About the same time I read the 4 hour body, I am a big Tim Ferriss fan and he mentioned the idea of using a BodPod for Body Fat testing, the book was released on December 14th, I took my first BodPod on December 17th of 2010.  I thought I would be around 25% since I felt I was relatively healthy (remember I had lost 30 pounds and I was working with a trainer for months at this point), I was not, my first BodPod had me at 31.4%.  That moment devastated me, I didn’t think of myself as that unhealthy.  So much so that I retook the test with similar results a few days later.  I was starting to figure out that it was more nutrition than exercise at this point.

On January 1st 2011 I started my “2 a day” trainings, being a boxing fan I felt I could work myself back into good health.  One compromise I would not make was reducing my calories because my experience in 2007 left me very jaded, as well as having hypothoroid issues and testosterone problems.

Within 75 days I had gained 7 pounds of muscle training at super high intensities for sometimes twice a day.  I often made myself sick and injured.  I was gradually replacing bad food items with better food items (or so I thought at the time), my results were amazing, everything seemed to be working but I had started to compromise on food (meaning I had to eat well to get these results, I could not just eat anything I wanted) and I was working out all the time.

At this point I was scared to death not to work out because I just did not want to be fat anymore but I was constantly sick and injured and I fought through that, which is something I would not recommend knowing what I know now.

In April I met a friend that introduced me to the Paleo diet.  I explained to him that was mostly what I was doing but I was wrong, other than avoiding sugars the way I ate was not like I eat now.

I was convinced at this point that the answer was mostly diet and armed with the knowledge of Paleo I began to research Anti-Inflammatory diets.  That is when everything changed.  Turns out that eating mostly lean meats, good nutrient dense vegetables and occasionally some fruit is not only good for you but if you eat mostly those foods you do not have to worry much about consumption.  So I ate for size and my body responded well.

By May 03 I was down to 19% Body Fat which is a miracle all by itself, by June I was back to 21%, the culprit was Milk.  I was drinking milk in an attempt to gain muscle, my weight had gone from 185 to 161 in June.  I knew how to lose weight but I was clueless about gaining muscle and eating to gain muscle.  I seemed to be stalled around 20%.  Since 20% was a goal at one point I almost quit right here, looking back I am glad I did not.

In late June I attended a Crossfit Level 1 certification, while I thought I was familiar with Crossfit because of my work at high intensity I had no idea at all.  As far as I had come there was a part of the certification where you do a workout called “Fran”, basically 21-15-9 reps of Thrusters at 95 pounds and Pull ups.  I couldn’t do one of either and I could not contain myself, so I started to cry.  As far as I had come it seemed I had REALLY a long way to go.  I was wrong!

This is a picture of me just before I joined Crossfit NorthStar, Thank You so very much Sean.

Driving home from the certification in Chicago I was defiant, I would not have my accomplishments diminished by this ultra-fitness standard.  I just wanted to gain a little muscle, that was like Cirque-Du-Soliel of fitness, by the time we approached Minneapolis my wife had googled the gym near my house and I joined the very next day.  So much for defiance.

My progress was slow at first, hell I am not a fire breather now but I can do Fran without crying now and I recently deadlifted 275 pounds 65 times in one day while doing a ridiculous amount of pull ups and wall climbs (don’t ask, they suck).  Basically when I used to work out I did all the things I was good at and so whole sections of my body never got addressed.  Now that I work on my deficiencies a whole new world has opened up for me.

In September after some experiments with Intermittent Fasting I stumbled upon, being very familiar with my body and what it was capable of doing I started eating up to 4000 calories but in an 8 hour window a day.  Said differently I skip breakfast for maximum health.  Just an aside, people who skip breakfast don’t kill their metabolism, that is not why it is unhealthy for most people.  My first meal of the day is my biggest and it typically looks like what people think breakfast should look like.  I normally eat anywhere from 1500-2000 calories in one sitting.  The typical way for me to “Break my Fast” is a 10 ounce grass fed ribeye, big helping of sweet potatoes cooked in coconut oil with various peppers and onions, 4 Omega 3 enriched eggs with a Kale and Blueberry Salad.  For dessert I will often have a 10 ounce bowl of Whole Greek Yogurt with Strawberries and Raw Cacao Nibs.

For the first time in my life I am completely content as it relates to health and fitness.  My body heals better because I do not inflame it because I eat mostly anti-inflammatory foods, what little healing it does need is aided by “Skipping Breakfast” and less than 20 minutes of Crossfit a day does the trick to keep me in shape (the total time commitment is an hour but most of it is stretching and getting ready for what’s about to happen).

Today my fitness journey ended exactly one year after my first BodPod, the final tally was 9.1%.  While that wraps this up with a nice little bow I think the thing I am most looking forward to is just being able to move into my next phase of health and fitness.  Clearly this year was a very measured approach, next year will be much more deliberate, less measuring and more enjoying the journey.

This is me now, I am pretty pale so the black and white provides some perspective. Tanning really is not an option in Minnesota in the winter and who has the time anyway.

This is me about a week ago (probably at about 10%).

Final Tally, I started with 57.1 pounds of fat and now I have 13.8 pounds.  For a total loss of 43.3 (this was after I already had lost 30 pounds).

Maybe more remarkably because it is difficult to both lose fat AND gain muscle I started with 124.5 pounds of lean mass and I now have 135.689 for 11.189 pound gain.

Posted in crossfit, leangains, nutrition, paleo diets, weight loss | 1 Comment

Why a Ten day challenge is better than a Thirty day challenge

Let me first say that I hold nothing against the various Paleo/Primal sites and books that offer up a 30 day challenge approach to anti-inflammatory eating.  I think it’s great and the intent of their programs is to expose people to the diet and how it can significantly affect their health and fitness goals.  All of which I think is phenomenal, I just do not agree that it is the only way to do it nor do I believe it is the best approach for almost everyone.  The basis for why I say this is relatively simple, I eat in a Primal way (Mark Sisson’s version of Paleo with some dairy) most of the time.  Per the protocol I occasionally partake in some grains (same with Paleo).  All of which is normal and acceptable under what is known as the “20% rule”.  Most of the 30 day challenges tend to be a bit more restrictive, this is where we differ.

For more information including free lists of what to eat to get ripped and a great and supportive group, join the Food Log group on Facebook, it is a private group.

Why I think 10 days is better

Let’s assume that we can get people to the point to agree that their life would be better without grains.  That seems relatively simple to do right? Beans and Milk are arguable points but for a really restricted time period let’s make sure to add them in.  Most people are now continuing to listen but they have a chalkboard in their head while they google “weight watchers online”.  By the time you hit them with doing it for a month they are done, and it’s light beer and nachos time for 19 points (I really have no idea what the points are for light beer and nachos).  Now let’s say that you offer a similar “very clean” paleo or primal program but for 10 days, now you have them back.  The reason is simple, and it is not just because anyone can do anything for 10 days (though that is partly true).  With all of our good intentions to share our “health secret” we have lost track of why people take on this challenge in the first place.  Typically it’s just to lose a few pounds, maybe more than a few for some people.  No matter what you call what we are selling let’s not forget that we have opposition that in a lot of cases are not long term health solutions for our friends and families.  Forget the fact that the way we eat is not very restrictive when in practice because that is not what is going on in the heads of the people we care about.  This is why I think 10 days is better.

I personally have used the 10 day protocol for extreme health and body fat loss

As a general rule this is what I do during those times, the rest of the time I use the 20% rule.  I never count calories and I eat until I am full in both situations.

The simple approach to eating well, you may have heard this stuff from your mom

The other part that seems to be unclear to most people I will try and clear up with my anti-inflammatory foods list but we have made things too confusing.  This is the simple answer:

Lean Meats



Not these meats under these conditions, or vegetables but not fried or one fruit a day.  If you eat Lean Meats, Vegetables and Fruits you are not doing it wrong, period.  Now maybe that is not technically Paleo or Primal or Caveman or whatever other bullshit marketing idea but it most certainly is an anti-inflammatory way of eating.  On my list I will continue to add and categorize to try and make things as easy as possible but remember that if you just eat those 3 things and nothing else you are not doing it wrong.  Expanding from that list will be glorious and infectious and it will expose the people we love and care for to the miracle we know.

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Questions I get asked a lot

I have been getting a lot of questions lately so I figured I would address them in a blog rather than having the same 5 conversations over and over again.

Do you still play poker?

Not really, at least not right now but this is not any different than normal.  I always have been hot and cold with poker.  Currently my interests are dominated by health and fitness and I suspect that will taper off at some point.

For more information including free lists of what to eat to get ripped and a great and supportive group, join the Food Log group on Facebook, it is a private group.

Why is Beanie so obsessed with abs?

I am not really, in fact, it could not be more unimportant to me.  It does however seem to be very important to a core audience that I would like to have a conversation with.  To that end my fitness level is important as a means of credibility.  For some people before and after pictures make a big difference, those people are often heavy and would like to lose weight.  While I do not mind talking and having a conversation with those people I would much prefer to have a dialogue with younger people that have a  desire to be fit and simply steer them on the proper path.

This site looks like a business and it says you are a Nutrition coach, what up with that?

Currently this site is just my nutrition blog, I try to write from my own experiences and while I am very well versed on diets and dieting I am not a registered dietician, nor do I want to be.  I mostly talk about how eating in an anti-inflammatory (google inflammation foods and see how many of those are dietary staples of yours) way helps your body function better.  If you are 70 years old that might mean you can use what I say to fight off heart disease or arthritis symptoms.  If you are 19 it might help you get washboard abs and be more athletic, it really depends on your goals.

How will this site make money if and when it ever does?

Heck if I know.  That really isn’t that important to me at the moment.  If I could do it the way I want to do it the business model would be that people could pay what they think it’s worth.  Since I currently charge $0 no one can complain about the price of the information.

You used to be fat, now you are thin, are you on a diet?

I am not really on a diet though I am much more conscious of my intake than I was in the past.  I eat meats and veggies and I occasionally have all the stuff that we all enjoy.  I used to have all that stuff without limits and in that sense there is some restriction going on.  I no longer eat like a moron.  If you want specifics I would say I eat between 2500-3000 calories a day, sometimes less and sometimes more, I rarely keep track but if I did I would assume that if I regularly stayed under 2000 calories my life would suck more than a little bit.  So I don’t do that.

Ah, so it’s all exercise?

Nothing pisses me off more than people that say this about me.  It feels so disrespectful to 23.5 hours of my life every day.  The fact is if you include my warm up I work out about 30 minutes a day, if you include stretching it would be an hour.  Yes it’s really active, yes it’s intense, no it’s not for everyone.  I am not trying to convince anyone to do what I do just quit saying I am fit because I exercise because I would consider it less than 20% of the reason (and so would most people in the fitness industry).

It must be exercise because I eat fewer calories than you do and I can’t lose weight

Don’t make me punch you in the face.  I told you that pissed me off (just kidding obviously).  Activity matters, calories in and calories out matter, they just aren’t 100% of the answer in either case.  If you want to lose weight without exercise you can do that, you just won’t get fit but if that is not important to you then have at it.  Similarly if you eat like a moron but you workout with intensity you will not necessarily lose weight, your fitness level might increase and it might allow you to keep your bad habits but it will not give you optimal health.  Once again, optimal health might not be the goal for you and that’s cool by me.

I am on weight watchers, is what you do similar?

It is similar in the respect that I am conscious of my intake but I rarely measure the way that weight watchers requires.  I don’t personally think that is sustainable for life, for ME.  I have serious beef with weight watchers and any dieting program that focuses on restriction without addressing inflammation and it’s effects on the body.  Can you lose weight eating a smaller amount of nachos and beer, of course you can.  Is that the best path forward for most people? I don’t personally believe it is.

Dude seriously, I am in pain, I don’t want to be fat any more what will you charge me to help me out?

Firstly I am not trying to convince anyone of my approach to fitness and health, if you want to hear what I have to say simply ask or call me, free of charge.

Can I drink or have dessert?

Not only can you I would recommend it highly.

Do I have to skip breakfast, it looks like you skip breakfast?

Absolutely not, I only recently started skipping breakfast (intermittent fasting) and I would not necessarily say that it is the right approach for everyone.

Are you a personal trainer and can you design some workouts for me, I want to get my fitness on?

I currently don’t have time or interest in that.  Yes I am a Crossfit Level 1 trainer and I am  also certified CrossfitKids.  I am tired of hearing “I will start on Monday” or “I need a workout buddy”.  Once again if you want to have a conversation about how to move forward then call me but if we are going to sit in a coffee shop for an hour with you telling me all of the shit that you aren’t willing to do or “you have a shoulder thing” please save both of us the time and energy.  That might sound harsh but frankly it seems people are not in enough pain yet to hear the truth and in a lot of cases they will die without ever knowing how easily they could have turned it around (which also sounds harsh I realize).

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Intermittent Fasting Protocol for Crossfit

This is my most recent WODTalk blog and more accurately reflects what I do these days

Lots of Crossfitters are interested in Intermittent Fasting not because they necessarily want to just be more lean but also because if done correctly it can add to athletic performance and strength gains.  Let’s first be clear about a few things, in none of the scenarios I am about to present are you technically training fasted because you will be eating something (technically).  Also this is not a diet, eat what you want Paleo style, Zone style whatever floats your boat, count or do not count it will not affect the science behind why fasting works, especially in the case of athletic performers.

Guaranteed Fat Lost Costs and Program

Very quick primer on what fasting does and why it works well

I feel a need to say this over and over, this is not a diet, if you want to eat 6 ribeyes in your window have at it, no one is trying to restrict your calories.  If you happen to want to restrict your calories eating in a small window of time could not be more convenient but that might confuse the issue.  The long and short of my message is simple, eat to stay fit and fast to enhance that process.

What fasting does is relatively simple but people want to make it very complex.  As Crossfitters we have been exposed to the role of insulin as a “building” hormone (I think the word “building” describes it better than “storage”).  In the presence of insulin HGH is blunted, said simply fasting increases your HGH, fast too long and you lose some of the benefits so you have to be conscious of your fasting window, personally I like 16-18 hours for men and 14-16 hours for women.

The other added benefit is that when you eat your body will have fully processed most of the food from the previous nights refeed window.  So your body is ready for nutrients, you can literally eat a lot of things at this point and your body will use most of those nutrients well but my suggestion is to make your first meal count and save your “treats” for later in the day.

The Protocol to use for various WOD times

As a general rule I fast from 8pm to either noon or 2pm (either 16 or 18 hours).  It is somewhat dependent on schedule.

Early morning fasted window

I WOD (workout of the day for non-crossfitters) at 5:30 am typically, my day starts like this, I wake up with no alarm clock at about 4 am (otherwise I do the 7 am session) at 5am I drink 10g of powdered BCAA’s personally I use Optimum Nutrition powdered BCAA’s because they dissolve in water.  Then I WOD, post WOD I take 10g of BCAA’s again this time with Creatine (optional) and then I have another dose of BCAA’s at 10am.  The later in the morning you WOD the fewer BCAA’s you need to take.  I break the fast at Noon or 2pm.

This protocol likely will not be too hard for most of the people that workout in the morning because it is typically not easy to eat too much early.  So WOD’ing on an empty stomach for this crew is no big deal, the post workout window is where things would seem difficult and certainly there is an adjustment period, I am not going to try and tell you there is not one.  This also contradicts most Post Workout protocols so remember I am not trying to convince anyone of anything, this works well for me and keeps me lean.  There are many crossfitters that fast I am simply trying to make that process easier, make your own adjustments and listen to your body.

The BCAA’s are there simply to protect your muscle pre and post workout, the protein will spike your insulin slightly but the HGH effect is not blunted too severely.  You will not see results over night and initially things might seem hard but your body will adjust just try and stay busy during the fasted window in the morning and you should be fine, if you sit down and obsess over food life will suck a little bit until you eat every single day.  DON’T DO THAT!

It is my recommendation for you to have your biggest most nutrient dense meal coming out of your fast.  This is a guideline and not a rule because life’s schedule does not always play fair.  This is a great time for protein and possibly some clean carbs to help your recovery and keep your glycogen stores full for tomorrow’s WOD.  I personally do not over do it on carbs but I am also not a huge fire breather, if you are a fire breather and you are constantly depleting your glycogen reserves some clean carb refeeds for size might be in order.

Noon workouts

This one is easier if you do not want to take in a ton of BCAA’s, I personally find it harder and more physically demanding but that seems to be person specific, when I do 18 hour fasts I love working out at noon, I do not however think you will get maximum athletic performance but if your concern is to simply get in a good workout and eat mostly natural then this window is for you.  Simply fast until about 30 minutes before your workout then take 10g of BCAA’s.  Post WOD I suggest having a big nutrient dense meal as close to the workout as possible but I will eat as late as 2pm in this scenario.  That is why I like this protocol when I use 18 hour fasts.

Later in the day or Late evening workouts

There is no need for this group to use BCAA’s, simply eating a good amount of protein pre and post workout is sufficient, so in that way many crossfitters will prefer this protocol, to avoid the unnatural foods.  Personally I love it when I can do late afternoon WOD’s.  I break my fast around noon or 2pm with anywhere from 25% to 40% of my calories for the day (estimating is probably OK in this scenario) and somewhat dependent on how late you workout and how much food you can handle while still performing athletically.  Your biggest meal would then be eaten post workout, similar to the other scenarios.

Some thoughts on Carb Refeeds and Fat consumption on “rest days”

For this protocol I borrowed heavily from the Leangains site, on that site Martin Berkhan suggests eating with a positive energy balance (you eat more calories than you burn) on workout days eating predominantly carbohydrates.  This accomplishes a few things:

1.  It restores the glycogen reserves in your muscles and liver that would have been used up on workout days under something like the normal reverse pyramid training that is the suggested workout protocol on that site.

2.  Eating at a positive energy balance resets the Leptin in your body to function more properly.  I may write more about this at some point but the long and short of it is relatively simple.  The leptin hormone regulates the fat in your adipose tissue, when dieting too extreme you actually harm your leptin levels which hurts fat mobilization (and many other things related to inflammation in the body).  Occasionally eating at a positive energy balance has very positive affects for keeping those levels normal.

3.  The processes that your body needs to gain muscle is very complex.  This cycle sends signals to your body that you will be tearing down muscle aggressively but will also provide it with the necessary components to repair itself and actually build newer leaner mass.

4.  Lastly and maybe most importantly these days allow you to live life without extreme restriction from a dieting perspective.

For Crossfiters this brings up an interesting question, which days are off days? I will first give what I do and then make suggestions from there.  On a regular maintenance protocol where I am eating +20% calories high in carbohydrate (note that for Crossfit this would probably mean clean Paleo style carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, butternut squash or simple a bit more fruit on these days) I try and stick to three carbohydrate refeed days and four days with -20% calories that are predominantly fats.  This next part will get ignored but it should not, on rest days while fats are relatively high and carbohydrates are relatively low this does not mean you should eat extremely low carbs.  This is maybe most important for Crossfitters because when you eat extremely low carbohydrates your athletic performance will suffer.  Use your judgement but for my purposes I like to eat around 150g of clean Paleo style carbohydrates on these days.  Once again I am not saying what people should or should not eat, I am offering up what I do, so read this judgement free while downing that ice cream sundae.

My gym Crossfits five days a week (the main site suggests three days on one day off), our rest days are on Thursday and Sunday.  So those days are obviously rest days where you will eat highish fats with moderate carbohydrate intake.  The simple solution for me on my +20% days is to do one on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  Tuesdays and Saturday’s are treated as conditioning days, or rest days and I eat -20% calories on those days.

For Paleo style eaters the +20% days are great days to have those treats that technically stray from Paleo.  As most Paleo’ers know the suggestion is not to eat Paleo 100% of the time.  These days are great to have some of the things you enjoy but would not eat on a regular basis.

The cliffs on fat days is simple, the body is extremely complex and is constantly in a state of tearing down and building up.  When eating -20% and mostly fats you are keeping your body at a negative energy balance which means that you are eating fewer calories than you are using during your day.  Under these conditions as a general rule your body is not storing fat.  That is the simple version, there is much more going on but as a rule of thumb I find this helpful to know.

Dieting while fasting and Crossfitting

I have at times been a bit more aggressive with the protocol, something like -10% on “workout days” and -30% on “rest and conditioning” days is doable but your workouts will suffer.  What I do in this scenario is cycle between a maintenance protocol (+20/-20) for say 20 days in a month and then go to the more aggressive (-10/-30) for 10 days.  I even go as far as telling my trainers so they are aware of my limitations on those 10 days, the difference in performance is that extreme.

Personally I would not recommend a more aggressive protocol than that nor do I believe it is necessary.  I realize for many people that are joining Crossfit gyms around the world one of the big motivations is to lose weight.  I can not stress this enough, occasionally you can eat at a deficit and measuring might be in order but mostly you should just eat a good clean anti-inflammatory diet (Paleo) and let the workouts do their job.  I realize that you will not do so but when you ask me various hacking questions do realize that I will likely default to that answer.

Use your brain and make adjustments 

I am not a doctor nor am I a dietician, I am however a Crossfit Level 1 instructor and I am Crossfit Kids certified, I am extremely well versed on the Paleo and Zone diets that Crossfitters use to stay fit and have attended the “Whole 9” workshop (they are vehemently against intermittent fasting so you might not want to bring it up, you have been warned).  I am extremely comfortable making changes to my diet for athletic performance but I am also very comfortable dieting.  Just remember that all of your decisions have natural and logical consequences.  If you want to ask me specific questions you can use the comments on this article, “like” the Facebook page or best of all join the Food Log Porn group (most of the people in the group are regular lean gainers).

Also remember that these are my opinions based on my personal experimentation, they are not meant to be presented as advice for your specific situations or needs.  Nor should they be viewed as a recommendation.

Posted in crossfit, leangains, nutrition, paleo diets, personal training, protein supplements, weight loss | Leave a comment

Eating for Athletic Performance

This morning at my gym we had an interesting workout because when I saw it I was not sure I could finish it.  Basically in 20 minutes we had to do 2 wall climbs (lay on floor, feet against the wall, walk up the wall, touch your stomach against the wall and then go the other way)  then 4 Deadlifts at 275 pounds and 6 pull ups, as many rounds as possible.  I have been dealing with a stiff back so I wanted to be super cautious with the Deadlifts, after all, I am a 153 pound man, 275 pounds is a lot of weight.  In the end I did 8 rounds, I felt pretty good about that given that I was being relatively cautious with my back.  The Deads alone were 8800 pounds.  Once I was done I felt like I left too much in the chamber, I just was not very tired at all.  I certainly was not the gym all star and there was another person that is similar size to me that did 11 rounds.  So that got me thinking, can I do this again later in the day? My main concern was safety but yet, I thought I could.  So I started the prep making sure I was nice and stretched out, I tried not to sit down all that much so back would not tighten.  I have a “rumble roller” so I got some soft tissue work done and by mid morning the idea had me going.  I was going to do it.

I would need some sugars and carbs

Since a picture is worth a thousand words here are two thousand words.

The omelet is a 4 egged souffle omelet Tex Mex style with Tomatoes, Jalapeños and other good stuff including Chorizo Sausage.  The Pancakes are Pumpkin Pancakes and I am not sure this needs to be said but yes I was alone and I ate it all.  I did not have the powdered sugar, the cream or the whipped cream.  I was not avoiding fats necessarily but I was really focusing on carbs, preferably starchier and non-refined if possible.

The only other thing I took in was a Synergy Guava Goddess.

The Second Workout

I actually did a slight bit better the second time around, I still did 8 rounds but this time I did 2 more wall climbs and 1 deadlift for a total amount lifted for the day just in deads of 17,875 pounds.  Other than a blister I feel great, I did not eat crazy but I did give myself a nice little treat, once again 2000 words, my dinner was Cashew Chicken from Leeann Chins, notice no rice because I if I was going to eat simple carbs I prefer Sorbet.

If you have any questions just hit me in the comments or facebook, as you might imagine I am a bit tired, luckily tomorrow is rest day at my gym.

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