Healthy vs. Unhealthy: Macro/Micro Nutrients and What It All Really Means

Fact: You can get fat eating too many apples.

Fact: You can lose weight eating McDonald's.

I hope you're still reading... I’ve been trying to get this point across to a lot of people lately… Many are under the impression that food is either healthy or unhealthy. Period. In reality, that is a very black-and-white way of thinking and not accurate in most cases. You CAN get fat eating too many apples and you CAN lose weight eating McDonald’s; however, we've got to think deeper to really understand this and see how neither practice is a good one. The first scenario would have you eating 25–30+ apples per day, while the second would allow you maybe only one value meal for entire day; neither making you feel very good or performing at your best.

McDonald's – Healthy vs. Unhealthy
Apples – Healthy vs. Unhealthy 

From a physics perspective, it’s calories in vs. out for body weight. Though, for true health (efficient functioning and warding off disease states), you need to eat to control blood sugar, take advantage of anabolic windows, and receive the MICROnutrients that will keep you sleeping well/avoiding illness/etc.. Keep in mind, macros don’t count important things like saturated fat, fiber, vitamins, and minerals [further explanation of macro vs. micro -nutrients forthcoming].

I have a client that refuses to listen to me and eats like garbage. In his defense, he’s losing weight (gradually) because he eats two meals of fast food per day and limits the quantity of items. He also frequently oversleeps his alarm, trains half-assed, and is likely developing atherosclerotic plaque of a 90-year-old; but hey, if he’s happy(?). See my point? 

For a hard-training athlete, it’s a no-brainer. You have to pay attention to macros and timing at least somewhat. Yes, on occasion you could do protein shakes all day and eat a pizza and still make progress if you’re “on” 90-95% of the time. I'll admit, that’s how I keep my sanity sometimes and I wouldn’t deter anyone from doing the same on occasion. Always keep your bigger picture in mind. 

What Are Macronutrients? Micronutrients?

Macronutrients are the nutrients that provides your body with energy and thus contribute to making up calories. There are 4 of them: carbohydrates, protein, fat, and alcohol. 
Micronutrients are the nutrients that provide your body with everything else it needs to function and flourish; including, vitamins, minerals, and water.

I can't talk about this without mentioning the documentary by Morgan Spurlock, 'Super Size Me'. The movie's theme doesn't quite fall in exact line with what I'm talking about, but I would definitely recommend checking it out if you haven't seen it. His experiment involves eating McDonald's every meal of the day and monitoring health to show the effects. He's a New Yorker, so his walking habits match and likely exceed the exercise that most Americans get on a daily basis. Needless to say, things did not go well. 

To be the healthiest you, consider using a food-logging software like MyFitnessPal to start getting a better grasp on your own macro and micro -nutrients. If you're not sure where to begin or you'd like to really dive deep into the subject, contact me about working together. One of the first things I'm looking at when assessing diets is micronutrient intake. To give you an idea, about 1 in 10 people have those bases covered to where I don't feel the need to address specific recommendations and in many cases, supplementation. It's the nature of a low-calorie diet to be lacking in many nutrients through whole food intake alone. That's just the reality. 

Back to the healthy vs. unhealthy debate...

Healthy Pizza

I hear this a lot – "I can't. I love pizza too much". Also, "I totally gave in this weekend and had a burger and fries". What causes the most harm here is the resultant mental state the guilty parties are in from having something that's considered unhealthy. My follow up questions are always the same –"well, what KIND of pizza was it?". "What KIND of burger and fries? Tell me more". Pizza can be made with grilled chicken, veggies, lightly cheesed, and on a thin nutrient-rich crust. Pizza can also be mass produced with preservative ingredients, overloaded cheese, and covered in low-grade pepperoni and sausage. Comprendé? And that burger that got the best of you... it could have been made with quality grass-fed beef, sweet potato fries cooked in extra-virgin olive oil, and a bun made in-house. That burger could have also come from fatty cuts of 75 different cows, served with deep-fried fries cooked in vegetable oil. See? The devil truly lies in the details when comes to just about ANY food item. Pizza, burgers, and ice cream can all be part of a healthy diet if they're the right composition, portion size, and frequency. And certainly by now, you should be thinking of healthy as it's dictionary definition(s), NOT the black-or-white buzz word it's seen as on TV.

Definition of HEALTH
Both macro and micro -nutrients are very important, of course, but you'll hear much more about macronutrients, or "macros", if you following current bodybuilding and fitness media. The whole idea of "flexible dieting" or IIFYM (if-it-fits-your-macros) came about a few years ago and oh jeez... where do I begin... 

Many social media fitness influencers are posting pictures of their tan ripped body after pigging out on junk food and saying, "if it fits your macros!" #IIFYM. Here's my problem... while I see their point, there's thousands of impressionable 15-year-olds with body image issues desperately seeking information that are reading this. It's a potentially dangerous two-sided coin. IIFYM can be a practice that teaches moderation and developing healthy habits while enjoying life, but it has to be presented in the right way. Before I go full-blown Public Service Announcement, I'm going to regroup and continue writing later. Stay tuned for Part II. 





The Best Fitness Tracker for 2017

The Best Fitness Tracker

The wearable fitness tracker market has exploded over the past couple years, leaving people extra confused on an already confusing type of technology. Personally, I think we're still another half decade or more from having truly awesome/accurate fitness trackers, but until then they provide some nice novelty and another way to stay motivated, which is never a bad thing. reach out to me sharing their latest research on which fitness tracker is the best up to this point in 2017. Read about their TOP 3 PICKS from assessing 87 different devices.



To Maintain Your Fitness Goals, Go on the Offensive

Today's post is a special guest post by Paige Johnson from Paige is a self-described fitness “nerd.” She possesses a love for strength training. In addition to weight-lifting, she is a yoga enthusiast and avid cyclist. Whether you're looking to stay on track continuing your New Year's resolution or completely fell off the wagon and in need of a hand to climb back on, you're reading in the right place.
Maintain Fitness Goals – Ben Palocko / FitnessPenPal

To Maintain Your Fitness Goals, Go on the Offensive

One of the most common goals of people is to lose weight and get in better shape. Consequently, the number one thing people fail at is losing weight and getting healthy. Why is it so hard to keep this resolution?

First and foremost, sometimes making a general goal is hard to keep. Many people simply pick something broad on a whim and hope they’ll stick to it. Of course, many of these general goals are unrealistic and end up falling by the wayside when we get busy or overwhelmed. How then, does one set fitness goals and actually keep them? 

For one, you need to be serious about your goals. Next, you have to go on the offensive.

Many think about diet as a series of temptations - one after the other - that they must avoid. I walk past a bowl of cookies here and I turn down a piece of pie there. Of course, you must be able to make good choices and avoid pitfalls if you’re to succeed in an overall fitness plan, but instead of thinking about it as a series of willpower tests, it’s better to set yourself up for success so you have to test that willpower less and less. 

There’s actually some science to back this up. According to a study quoted in The New York Times

“[P]eople with the best self-control, paradoxically, are the ones who use their willpower less often. Instead of fending off one urge after another, these people set up their lives to minimize temptations. They play offense, not defense, using their willpower in advance so that they avoid crises, conserve their energy and outsource as much self-control as they can.”

“These strategies are particularly important if you’re trying to lose weight. The more you starve your body, the less glucose there will be in your bloodstream, and that means less willpower. Because of this vicious cycle, even people with great self-control in the rest of their lives can have a terrible time remaining slim.”

So, what does this mean in everyday life?

Fitness Tips – Ben Palocko / FitnessPenPal

Shop smarter

The fewer cookies you have in the house, the fewer cookies you’re likely to eat. It’s simple, but of course, it’s not easy. It takes willpower to set a healthy grocery list and stick to it. 

Meal plan and cook for yourself

The only way to really control what goes into your body is to make it yourself. If you take the time to make a healthy lunch for yourself, you’re less likely to fall into temptations at work or in other activities during the day. 

Maximize your daily routine

There will be days when you aren’t able to workout, but not to worry, because there are plenty of ways we get exercise throughout the day. Just look for ways to make the most of those opportunities. For example, take the stairs rather than escalators or elevators. Take your dog for walks more frequently, and while you’re at it, make a few extra bucks by offering your dog walking services to your neighbors as well. Wear ankle weights around the house so you can do a little strength training while taking care of your daily household chores. By maximizing these small moments, you’ll burn some extra calories and get even closer to your fitness goals. 

Let people keep you honest

It may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes it helps to let friends, family, and coworkers know about your weight loss goals. Not so they’ll demand a weigh in at the end of the week or anything, but the simple fact of knowing someone is struggling with a tough life change can affect your behavior toward them. If you knew someone was trying to watch their weight, you might hesitate before offering them a piece of cake, right? A personal trainer or coach can help guide you in healthier choices and encourage you along the way.

All of these are examples of ways to play offense - utilizing one’s willpower before the moment of temptation in order to maximize its efficacy. Like with most life goals, setting oneself up for success is one of the most important first steps. With fitness and weight loss, it’s paramount. 


Photo Credit:

Author: Paige Johnson



Healthy Snacks 2016: Quick Meals to Save Time and Stay On Your Nutrition Plan

If you follow on me on social media, then you know that I occasionally post healthy snacks that I've been incorporating into my diet, along with some tidbits about its nutritional information and where you can get them. People have asked me for snack recommendations lately and I've realized it's a lot easier to say, "Here ya go" and send them all in one nice tidy place versus sending them all through backdated social posts. And so explains the reasons for today's writeup. I've compiled all the best snacks from the past year or so that haven't worked themselves out of the lineup for one reason or another.

Something I'm big on is simplifying everything humanly possible, and you can bet this effects how I eat every day. Let's be real... Raise your hand if you've had time to consistently cook the complete healthy meals they always show in the magazines and in most blogs. I know a lot of people who –once a week– take the time to pick up all 50 of the ingredients and spend their Sunday evening preparing a meal, that with cleanup, taking up about a three to four chunk of time; only maybe 20 minutes of which you actually spent enjoying it. I don't know many people who can pull this off consistently. Think about how much easier it'd be to stick to your exercise and nutrition regimens if you could knock eating out in 20 minutes all said n' done. Even 10.

I've been amazed how much time eating some of these quick healthy meals has helped me free up time to sleep more, not shorten my workouts due to time restraints, and most importantly –call my grandmother. If you have a family and weeknight family dinners are something you cherish, I'm not saying you can't and shouldn't still enjoy that routine. Though, if you're looking to add a few hours to the day and live healthier because of it, try a couple of the following snacks (or meals depending on your definition and how much) in place of that morning breakfast-run or lunch out with the coworkers.

Scroll, slide, swipe, or do whatever you're doing and take a look for something you might like. If interested in purchasing any of these snacks, you can click/tap on the picture and it will redirect you to the the product within Amazon. Once you're in Amazon, you'll technically be in my Amazon store, so [to be completely transparent] I will receive a commission if your order anything. That's certainly NOT my intention of writing this post, but is a nice added perk and would be greatly appreciated over giving all your money to the local grocer or Walmart. My intention of writing this post is to help make it EASIER for you to eat healthy and follow your macros –if that's something you do. If you're a current client of mine –it better be! Mark my words... I'm writing a book on this topic someday and I'm tentatively calling it 'Simplify-It-Diet', but until that day comes, you get the shortened preview.

Now, without further ado. My healthy snack selections for 2016, along with a super quick review:


"Obligatory seasonal food/snack post from a healthy perspective: SuperSeedz pumpkin seeds -cinnamon sugar.

Mild, yet friggin delicious. And for those of you on the 'clean' eating wagon [fall insert #2], it doesn't get any cleaner than this; high protein, non-GMO, and allergen friendly. See for yourself"



"My new fav snack for when the sweet-tooth fairy visits. Short list of 'clean' ingredients, non-GMO, and rich enough that 1 serving satisfies. Got mine for $3.50/bag Heinen's "


"These taste exactly like Flintstones Push-Pops. Remember those?

Dannon OIKOS Triple Zero Nonfat Greek Yogurt☝ is a good anytime high-protein snack (15g), in particular breakfast for those of you who like to eat breakfasty things to start your day"

"These have been on my radar but not my tongue till today. You never expect TOO much on taste when it's a protein product but these were damn good and made a nice afternoon on-the-go-holdover-till-dinner snack 😋

#‎Macros ... (1 package)

Protein = 20g

Net/Active Carbs = 4g
Fat = 17g from nuts + nut butter

That equals 240 calories for you calorie counters. Don't expect Reese's sweetness but these make a solid sweet-tooth repellant_ Quest Nutrition"

"Most protein bars are full of crap and taste bad. These aren't and don't. @oatmegabar is the only packaged bar I've seen that uses grass-fed whey; also containing Omega3s. Found mine at Giant Eagle but know they're also at Walmart.

Macro nutrition for 1 bar...
Calories 190
Fat 7g
Carb 21g
Protein 14g

Mint is my fav flav. Trainer approved. Try, taste, and tell me your thoughts"

"My food/fuel recommendation this week is Healthy Choice Café Steamers SIMPLY, which is a newer selection of their frozen meals with only a few basic ingredients. When it comes to ingredients, less is more healthy. And for the lazies out there, you don't even have to vent the film cover👌 🍲

Low fat, high protein, moderate carb, relatively low-calorie, and taste is good considering the aforementioned. Look for em' @gianteagle and please comment if elsewhere"

"No need to leave the workstation for brunch when you can knead your Munk Pack instead. Quick and healthy food goods from our friends in the woods 🐿 @munkpack 

🔋⚖ Macros/1 Packet
Protein = 2g
Carbohydrate = 20g
Fat = 2g
(Calories = 100) 

☑️ 550MG omega-3, 4g fiber, nothing artificial, gluten free, non gmo, kosher, vegan, bpa-free pouch, & wholegrain"



"These new #Bai drinks are pretty dee-lish, and this flavor in particular has additional electrolytes and smidgen of caffeine making for a great pre workout or hot-summer-day drink. 

@drinkbai highlights:
•5 calories per 1/2 bottle
•No artificial sweeteners
•1 net carb per serving
•Caffeine = ~ 1 cup green tea🍵 "


"My new flavorite snack; good, tender, GRASS-FED steak strips (jerky) with 11g protein per serving; perfect for summer on-the-go snacking. 

Gluten Free / No Added MSG or Preservatives, FYI"


To shop my website store with links to healthy snacks, fitness equipment, and more –click HERE!

Thanks fo reating (get it? 😏 )




Understanding Your Body Type For Fitness


Know thy body type/somatotype to better know WHAT to do to transform your body. Above are the three generally accepted somatotypes, each of which warrant a unique training style and dietary needs. And yes, there are most certainly tweeners as most are.


Ectomorphs are primarily characterized by taller and more slender builds, with smaller/narrow bone structure. Ectomorphs, also called 'Ectos' or 'Hardgainers', are typically leaner naturally; they can lose weight easily but have a difficult time gaining bodyweight. Performance wise, these individuals may be best equipped for endurance events, non-contact sports, or sports and activities where being lighter works to one's advantage.


Mesomorphs are often hated by both ectomorphs and endomorphs alike because these individuals are naturally muscular (have good bodies) and don't have to work quite as hard to achieve results; they can gain or lose weight with less modification than their counterparts. Just about any human who's ever done extremely well in physique competition has at least some characteristics of a mesomorph. Performance wise, these individuals are typically the all-around athletes and can do well at multiple activities. To be clear, having a mesomorph body type does NOT automatically make you a great athlete; there are far too many other factors that play in.


Last, certainly not least, but probably the biggest: the endomorph. For those aspiring to be a strongman/woman or a defensive linebacker, this body type would provide the advantage. On the flip side, for those interested in a runway modeling career... better think twice. Endomorphs are the opposite of ectomorphs in many respects, naturally carrying more body fat and having larger/thicker bone structures. Endomorphs can gain weight easily; it's dropping weight and keeping it off that becomes their main challenge.

So there ya have it; the quick and dirty on body type or the new word you may have learned today – "somatotype". The most important thing is to understand YOUR body type in terms of physical characteristics, remembering that most people don't fall exactly into one of the three aforementioned groups. With that understanding, you can be less hard on yourself for trying to accomplish a physique or performance pursuit that may be outside your element.

Questions? Comment below! I'd be happy to provide some quick tips.

💻  If you're wanting to dig into this topic, check out my pricing page or message me through the contact form to learn more about Online Training and how to make best use of your efforts for your unique body type.

Click. Challenge. Change.





Introducing Workout Plans HQ


Workout routine you started for 2016 getting stale? Maybe still looking to start one this year? WORKOUT PLANS HQ has you covered for whatever type of exercise you want, from Weight Loss to Muscle Building, Running, Cross Fit, and so on... |No annoying pop-ups, 'offers', or fluff. Just workouts.

Check it out at 💻

Shout out to my biz partners @adamgreenx @cashcab_corb for getting this project off the ground as part of the ‎IlluminActive brand.




Free Obstacle Course Run in Cleveland


One of the places I train will be shooting for Channel 19 at 9am this Friday at our outdoor obstacle course. Come hang out!  or ❄

Details below @euphoria_health

"Most unique workout in #‎Cleveland is at Euphoria. Hang with Channel 19 on our 25 acre obstacle course this Friday at 9am. Get a free workout on 20 obstacles & a one mile loop in the snow! Sign up at the studio or call!"





The Mystical Power of New Years


Especially true on this day every year. A lot of people think that tonight, unlike every other night of the year, something magical happens as the clock from 11:59PM-12:00AM. This year, how about making it your resolution for this to be your last New Years resolution -per say. Instead, start setting goals all year long, this way you won't have to wait so long to make another should you fall off track. We will fall off track at some point. It's realistic expectations and rebound rate that far better predict having success in the end. If you do or don't want to do something today, chances are you'll feel the same way tomorrow. Think about it💭

Be safe tonight my peoples. And for some of you, don't think about how alcohol has 7 calories per gram 🤔





Become A Journalist: Improve Your Fitness By Logging Workouts

Today I want to talk about becoming a journalist, though, not in the sense of the word you might be thinking. No professional capacity here, just one that increases your personal capacity. Being borderline obsessive-compulsive since I can remember, I starting tracking my workouts when I first started back in 2008. I way overcomplicated at the time, creating a full excel spreadsheet for each exercise session and then updating the template later that evening on my parents' home desktop computer. In an effort to simplify, over the years my journaling has transfigured into more of a wear-and-tear, yet easy to record handwritten record. Wherever my workout is, my journal goes wherever I go. It's had its share of accidental stomps and spill-ons, but it's always right there when I need it. I even make my workout journals somewhat of a motivational art project, collaging images that get and keep me at the gym for that certain time period. Over the years, the images have changed from good looking dudes and chicks to ones that convey a deeper and more substantial meaning. 

Every gym session is now pre-prepped going in, to where all I have to do is scribble down a few numbers during the session and over time I end up having invaluable data, not just on how many sets/reps I did of a given exercise, but how that exercise felt... how I was feeling that day... how I felt afterwards. One of the keys to improving your exercise experience and productivity of time in the gym is knowing what's worked and what doesn't. I'm talking everything from time of day to hours of sleep the night before, training partners, what you're wearing; the list goes on. With this information stored and at your fingertips, the evidence is right there in front of you HOW to make your next session better. You'll know exactly how many of _____ you need to do to do one better than the last time, or maybe you'll just realize why you don't have it that night, but use that information to do one better the time after that. Being better is a matter of progression in feel/appearance/performance, not just subjectivity of numbers. 

So What Exactly Am I Doing? How Do I Start?

Starting is simple. Wait, I take that back. Starting will probably be the hard part. Once you start, doing it is simple. Buy a notebook of any size, though, preferably one that you can carry around with you during your workouts and look like you're multitasking your school projects while you're lifting. Flip to page one and clearly state what workout program you're starting/continuing or what your goals are at this particular time. On this first page, I also like to record my weekly split, in other words, what I'm doing on which days (of the week, month, etc.). 

Page 2 onward will each outline a workout or gym session with everything that you did and everything you felt (optional, but encouraged) on that particular day. There are multiple ways to setup and organize your workouts. The way I've come to prefer organization of pages are as follows:

WU = additional warmup set " = same as previous session

WU = additional warmup set
" = same as previous session

  • Top of page: the location, day of the week, and body parts I'm training or workout type
  • Down left side: the exercise list and any given targets
  • Beneath exercise/columns across: the sets, reps, and resistance completed
  • Bottom: additional notes on how the session went, energy levels, etc.

If you track using the above layout, you'll be able to record several workouts on a single page by not having to rewrite the exercises each time you do the same workout (my piece of green advice for the day. Let's save as many trees as we can). This also helps keep pertinent information right in front of your eyes when attacking the same exercises later that week or the following week. 

I, like many, will record in simple format the completion of an exercise in resistance x sets x reps.

For example, if you completed your first exercise of the workout – a barbell squat, and you did three sets of fifteen repetitions each, with 50 pounds added to a 45 pound bar, you would write:

95# x 3 x 15

The # sign isn't really necessary but I think it does help for a quick glance. Another common way of recording is with resistance as the last variable: sets x reps x resistance. I'd recommend picking which way makes most sense to you and sticking with it.

What If I Use Dumbbells or Other Equipment?

When you use dumbbells (DBs), I like to record the size selection of DBs that you use for the given exercise. So, if you do Overhead Shoulder Presses with 50# DBs, you could write ___ x ___ x 50#. If your ego would rather write 100# because you used two fifty-pounders, be my guest. 

Smith Machines use a bar that's lighter than a traditional barbell and have no range of horizontal motion. For these, Hammer Strength Equipment, and EZ bars –all of which you add plate weights, I suggest writing in only that resistance you add, either by simply writing the number, or by writing +___.  If you added two 45-pound plates to any of the above equipment, you'd write 90# or +90#. The main reason for this is that machines and equipment will vary quite a bit from place to place. You'll want to do your best and being as accurate as possible when logging, especially if you're someone who uses multiple facilities during the workout week. I've worked a lot on smart workout tracking with those who frequently travel.

There's a certain sense of nostalgia that goes along with flipping through old workout journals. For one, it's pretty cool to see how far you've come with regards to strength of a given lift or maybe the amount of exercise that you could handle at the time versus now. They also serve as a reminder of how many hours you've put in to making yourself better in some way. It may not always be what you started working out for in the first place. It might be something totally different. S'all good, though. 

If you're an in person client of mine, fear not, I've been your journalist. Online clients, you know I always preach this [insert: reminder to ensure your logs are up to date!]. If you're someone who's never written down a physical accomplishment in the past, maybe now is good time to start doing so. You never fully know where you'll be or who you'll become, but your workout journal, like a good long-time friend, will be there to remind you of your travels. 


Looking for custom workout programs or additional help with any of the above tracking methods? Look through my site and contact me for more info about individual consulting as part of Online Training _



Stop Obsessing Over The Scale

3,500 is the number of calories in one-pound of fat.

Think about that for a second.

How many calories do you eat everyday in total? 1,000? 2,000? 3,000+? Now, realize that there's something called basal metabolic rate (BMR), which in short, is the energy (calories) your body requires to wake up and simply survive the day. Meaning, if you woke up and didn't even move an  inch for an entire day, your body would be burning calories just sustaining basic function. I'm not lying to you, but it's probably obvious this doesn't account for much of your total daily energy expenditure. Don' try that. 

Back to my point... SO, when you weight yourself every day or multiple times per day, you will almost certainly drive yourself crazy. Unless you consume 3,500 calories of energy MORE or LESS (aka, a crap-ton of exercise) than your caloric baseline over the course of a single day, then any number differences on the scale is from fluid shift (retained or lost) from the body.

Activity/exercise, what you eat and drink, and a number of other daily doings affect this. For example: you wake up, you run out the door for work, not even eating breakfast because you're new to IlluminActive... it's a scorcher, your car's dashboard reading 90 degrees. You're wearing nice clothes, but they're not breathable, so you're sweating. Now, your body is doing it's best to maintain homeostasis by retaining water [weight gain]. The situation is compounded by compounded the 16 ounce slushy containing 80 grams of sugar you grab from the local quickie-mart before getting on the freeway [entirely hypothetical, but again, weight gained]. You have a busy morning at work and don't even think to drink a bottle of water, even after I, your trainer, told you to set a case next to your desk so you can't possibly forget. Lunch comes and you're ravenous because you skipped breakfast and subconsciously dehydrated... you're stressed and nutrition is the last thing on your mind is tracking macros so you grab two slices of pepperoni pizza. You don't know this, but the pizza contains the amount of sodium that you should consume in an entire day –given that you're drinking water, which you aren't. You finally remember to get a quick sip of water before running back upstairs for the afternoon. Unfortunately, it's only 4 ounces worth, less than you sweat out walking from the parking garage to the office that morning.

Nothing noteworthy happens in the afternoon, though, you're even more stressed because a project is due and you know you have a workout appointment with me, your trainer, right after work.

^ Stress = ^ Cortisol = ^ Sodium Retention = ^ Water Retention = Weight Gain

You arrive at the gym on time... whew! First thing you do before you hop on the treadmill to warmup is hop on the scale in the locker room. You always hesitate, but c'mon, it's staring at you every time you walk in. You're also thinking to yourself, "I did pretty good with calories today. I didn't eat breakfast, so that's no calories. I had that slushy, but it was small and it was a fruit slushy... fruit is healthy. And then I did have two pieces of pizza, but that's it, and it's 6:00. When I get home, I'll have a protein shake and be under calories for the day!". You step on.


Your jaw drops when it's two pounds HEAVIER than it was the day before. All the sudden, the workout you were psyched up for seems pointless... you even think about leaving before I, your trainer, walks out and finds you. Your mind is now becoming your worst enemy... you're thinking you had such a good week since last weight in three days ago. You didn't miss a workout and you've been under calorie goal. "I should stay... I've payed for it", you think to yourself. But with that line of thinking, how good/productive is your workout going to be?

Exit –to real life.

Hopefully this story makes sense. It may eerily resonate with some of you as the situation I described is super common... not necessarily all the little details, but the fact that normal daily habits DO and WILL mess with your body weight. 

For this reason, I have my clients weight in once per week -at most- under very controlled conditions and I still encourage they be emotionally removed from the reading. Leave the science and the adjustments up to your health professional.

To have success with weight loss or any fitness goal, focus on the controllable and only use things like the scale and measurements to help assess rate of progress.

Take home: Stop Freaking. Just Be Consistent.





Stabilize Your Core


We as trainers use the phrase, "stabilize your core", ad nauseam. If you've ever worked with a personal trainer or done an at-home workout DVD (or VHS if we're dating ourselves), then you know what I'm talking about. But what does that really mean? How do I whatever that is?

A common misconception is that the 'core' solely refers to your abs. Not so. The core, in its most general of definitions, refers to the body minus the legs and arms: including, the rectus abdominis (abs), external and internal obliques, transverse abdominis, quadratus lumborum, multifidus, and erector spinae. Some physiologists might throw a few extra muscles in that grouping depending on each professional's opinion.

Your core most often acts as a stabilizer and force transfer center rather than a prime mover. In other words, it does its job by holding the fort down and keeping all your pieces/parts safe while you swing your limbs around. Lack of core development can result in a predisposition to injury, so the sooner you strengthen it, the better off you'll be doing your favorite sport or activity. Most people don't get hurt during their workout, they get hurt doing things that are typically routine as a result of not working out enough. 

 The following routine should only take 20 to 30 minutes to complete and requires only a stability ball (abbreviated SB) and your own resistance. Inside, outside, doesn't matter SO LONG AS YOU DO IT! 

  • Warmup     5 minutes     Light dynamic activity (i.e. trunk twists, knee hugs)

Exercise                                      Sets x Reps              Level I                                   Level A      
SB Wall Squats                                2 x 15-20          Hold a weight in close          Hold weight
SB Crunches                                    2 x 15-20           Only toes for balance          +Hold weight
SB Single-leg Reverse Crunch        2 x 15 each         Only place toe down          Anchor overhead
SB Hyperextension                          2 x 15-20            Hands behind head              +Hold 3 seconds
SB Lying Leg Curl                            2 x 15-20             Push hips higher on roll      +Single leg curl
SB Plank                                           2 x fatigue        Feet on ball, extend arms   +Scissor leg hold

Cool-down 5 minutes     Light movement (i.e. walking around, mix protein shake)
                                               Static stretching - optional, though encouraged - 2 x 30 sec

What's the deal with the levels? Well, I'm glad you asked...

They're intensity modifiers so that the workout can be adapted to varying skill/experience level. True beginners will work on the basic movements in the exercise column. When you're ready to take on more, try:
Level I = Initiating exercise (beginner) to intermediate (some recent or past exercise experience)
Level A = ACTIVE level for those looking to challenge themselves and push their boundaries                

*Those who feel they're in between Level I and Level A should create their own middle-ground exercise modifications as they make the transition between. This will be known as Level I-A

If you're starting out, try the above workout two to three times per week. If you already have a fitness routine, inserting this workout in once per week or a couple times per month will surely benefit you as well. By paying some additional attention to the core bench players, it'll be far more likely you stay in the starting lineup_




Know Sweat

[The following read is an article I wrote for IlluminActive, which is a new fitness lifestyle brand/website that I co-started with two close friends]

Fit people tend to sweat more and start sweating sooner than those who are unfit. This is mainly because their bodies are more efficient at cooling, with evaporation being primary means of heat loss during exercise. Excess layers of clothing and/or non-breathable clothing inhibit some of this body cooling, which can lead to increased core temperature and quicker exhaustion. This is the reason an exercise session in a hot or humid environment seems more difficult even if it's a routine you're usually capable of. While I agree that Bradley Cooper can do no wrong, his character in Silver Linings Playbook wasn't doing himself any good wearing that garbage bag track suit. To stay cool, opt to show a little more skin (within boundaries of good taste, please) next time you're working out in the heat. Another good tip is to choose a workout shirt that is made of a high percentage of a breathable fabric like polyester, which you can pick up from our web store by clicking REP.


Next time someone's calling you gross for being a sweaty mess, you can counter with this morsel of knowledge. "Like" if you, like myself, brought heather gray workout clothing back into rotation after learning this. 

Continue visiting IlluminActive and know sweat_




Meal-in-a-Minute: Chicken & Sante Fe Rice + Avocado

I'm all about finding good meals that are both quick and inexpensive. This takes me 2 minutes to prepare, all said n' done and costs me about $4.50 at Giant Eagle. For some people it will make two full meals. Either way, it makes an excellent pre workout option due to the higher sodium content, lean protein, and complex carbohydrate.

1 pack Uncle Ben's Ready Rice - Whole Grain Medley Sante Fe
1 can white chicken
1/2 sliced avocado 

Microwave the rice for 90 seconds on high while you crack open the chicken & slice your avocado in half. Das it. 

Bulking? Fast metabolism?... you're good to go. eat up 

Cutting? Watching calories?... eat half and throw the other half in tupperware for the next day

Watching sodium?... throw in fresh cooked chicken instead


Full recipe MACROS: 
Protein = 50g
Carbohydrates = 90g
Fats = 24g

(I'll let you calculate half)





"Toning"... De-SLAM bunk!

[The following read is an article I wrote for IlluminActive, which is a new fitness lifestyle brand/website that I co-started with two close friends]

Ladies (and some gentlemen), are you sitting down? This might come as a shock to you, but there is NO SUCH THING as "TONING"! Just as there's no such thing as the boogeyman or cellulite (more on that another time... the cellulite part). Toning is a word that was developed to describe the tightening of a flabby area; be it arms, thighs, butt, etc..The media, like with a lot of things, has blown up the word to the point where it's used in pseudo-science and as a marketing buzz word to sell gimmicky products. Now there's toning creams that you supposedly rub onto your fat parts and magically the area "tones" and tightens (Aye Yai Yai!). People aren't gullible because they're stupid, they're just uneducated. Enter -IlluminACTIVE... 


From reading our previous debunk article, you now know a muscle can either grow bigger or become smaller, and overall body fat percentage can either increase or decrease. To become "toner"-or really- firmer, you need to decrease your percentage of body fat, thus starting to reveal the underlying muscle. Now, like a deep pro sports team organization, there are other players. If there's not much in the way of underlying muscle, onlookers might want to offer you a donut instead of ask HOW'D YOU DO IT!? That takes us back to a common paradox. You must now take in excess calories and weight train with the goal of gaining weight in the form of muscle mass. With this territory typically comes some body fat, with the exception of a few genetically gifted individuals whom we all hate. NOW, flash to next time you lean out, you're now lean with increased muscle definition (aka, toned). 

Another player is the muscle's state of fullness/hardness, or in other words, how filled the muscle is with glycogen, sodium and water. It gets crazy scientific and far beyond the practical understanding for most, but the key is to remember that nutrition is HUGELY important with any physique transformation. Eating smart will most certainly help achieve that fake tone you were so desperately after a few minutes ago. Explain this to a co-worker tomorrow at lunch. They'll either be impressed with your competence on the subject or make a mental note to avoid you the next day. Use this to your tactical advantage... you're welcome. 




Go For Grass-Fed

Nutrition Tip—Go for grass-fed meats, eggs, and dairy whenever possible. Grass-fed animals have two to four times the omega-3 "good fats" than grain-fed animals. There is also more of another good fat -CLA(conjugated linoleic acid)- and less of the bad. Furthermore, grass-fed products are richer in antioxidants; including vitamin C & E and beta-carotene. 

Try 1-2 grass-fed beef burgers with cheese and your favorite green veggie for a high protein/high healthy fat/negligible carbohydrate meal_



Two 4 oz. grass-fed beef patties
Two slices grass-fed cheese
2 servings steamed broccoli
Liberally sea-salted
16 oz. water

FATS= 24g





Tune Out Hocus-Pocus: REFOCUS


It's hump day; time to refocus on the now as it shifts to the latter half of the week. Today, give yourself a pat on the back for what you've accomplished, but continue to hold yourself accountable for what's still yet to be so. It's easy to lose sight of what's in your control with all of the outside interference, aka, "hocus-pocus" of today's world; one such example being those who have (or seemingly have) what you want...

My clients/family/friends are often getting discouraged, asking me, "how come (insert name) lost more weight than me?" or "gained muscle quicker than me?". There are things I could say that provide insight and ease angst, though, there is no answer. Everyone is only competing against themselves. Against the odds: time, genetics, naysayers, setbacks, etc. This post is also to remind myself. Once we stop comparing our progress to that of others, we can take greater pride in our own accomplishments_




Client Spotlight - Dina

I want to shine the spotlight on long-time client and friend, Dina, who recently got into the best shape of her life to present her work on stage at the 2015 NPC Natural Ohio in Lakewood -Women's Figure Division- in the same auditorium where she attended high school over two decades ago. Thrilled for and SUPER proud of this girl who's made some real brave decisions in her life recently_


[Pictured is Dina's transformation -62 pounds, from a size 16 to a 0]

Message me or visit for Online/In Person Training or similar contest prep packages 





Weather Shouldn't Decide Whether

[The following read is an article I wrote for IlluminActive, which is a new fitness lifestyle brand/website that I co-started with two close friends]


Weather shouldn't decide whether you workout or not.

As a trainer I hear every excuse in the book, but one that always has me biting my tongue is, "I was going to go out for a _____ (insert partially-weather-dependent activity), but the weather was crappy". If you're thinking, "then why didn't he or she just workout inside?", then I guess I'm not crazy and alone. A lot of areas of the country are getting hit with nasty weather this year, and although spring has officially sprung, that doesn't mean we have Mother Nature's full cooperation just yet.

You really don't need a home-gym or even a gym membership to get an effective workout. The following routine should only take 20 to 30 minutes to complete, using primarily body weight resistance and a few things every home should have to get your workout IN without going OUT:

  • Warmup     5 minutes     Light aerobic activity (i.e. jumping jacks, invisible jump rope)

Exercise                              Sets x Reps        Level I                   Level A                         Rest
Body Squats                            2 x 20                                              Jump Squats                30 sec          
Pushups                                   2 x 15                From knees            Plyometric/clap           30 sec
Towel under-foot Arm Curl     2 x 15                                                                                    30 sec
Triceps Dip on Chair                2 x 15                                               Legs elevated              30 sec
Calf Raises on Stair-edge        2 x 20                                              Single leg                     30 sec
Superman                                 2 x 15                                                                                    30 sec
Floor Crunches                         2 x 20              Feet on floor          Feet elevated               30 sec
Side Plank                                 2 x fatigue     On forearm            On extended arm         30 sec

  • Cool-down 5 minutes     Light movement (i.e. walking around, mixing protein shake)
                                                   Static stretching - optional, though encouraged - 2 sets x 30 sec

What's the deal with the levels? Well, I'm glad you asked...

Level I = Initiating exercise (beginner) to intermediate (some recent or past exercise experience)
Level A = ACTIVE level for those looking to challenge themselves and push their boundaries                

*Those who feel they're in between Level I and Level A should create their own middle-ground exercise modifications as they make the transition between. This will be known as Level I-A.





Changing the Shape of a Muscle... De-SLAM-bunk!

[The following read is an article I wrote for IlluminActive, which is a new fitness lifestyle brand/website that I co-started with two close friends. This is the first installment of our myth-debunk series]

YOU CANNOT CHANGE THE SHAPE OF A MUSCLE with training (as in characteristic form or appearance). A muscle can be trained to change its performance and/or size, but not its genetically determined shape. For example: preacher curls will place more tension at the distal insertion of your biceps brachii, creating a feeling like the part of the muscle nearer the elbow is being worked more significantly. Despite this highly localized feeling, the exercise will not lengthen your biceps muscle as a result.

If a muscle grows in size, it will fill out the available space, growing into a more apparent version of its true shape. Look at before/after pictures of anyone who has added significant muscle mass (e.g. professional bodybuilder and other physique athlete). This person's overall size and visual impression may have increased dramatically, however, shape characteristics and genetics remain visible and unchanged. Those with a trained eye for such sports will know better what I'm talking about.


In other words, you get the hand you're dealt. How you play that hand is up to you.

I explain this NOT to discourage, but to encourage a shift of focus to the controllable. To stop chasing ghosts, arm yourself with a mind.




New Office Construction

Feeling far more legit after completing office construction at one of my in-person training locations. A shout-out and thank you goes to my good buddy Corbin Gold for the design work and assistance. If you're local, come get shapely with me