4 Kick-Ass Exercises to do While You’re on a Tropical Vacation

It’s common to use the Oh-I’m-on-Vacation excuse as a reason to not workout when you go on vacation to a tropical destination. Don’t sabotage all of your hard work during your vacation getaway! You can get a great workout while away and not feel so guilty when you return. Here are four ways to workout while you’re away and off your regular schedule:

Go to the Beach

There are plenty of beach activities you can do to burn some calories and do the body good! Catch some sun while you run on the beach. The soft, sandy surface creates a low impact surface for you to run on while strengthening the smaller muscles in your feet & ankles you use by running on an unstable surface. Yes, this is a bit more effort but as a result, you burn MORE calories than on a level, stable surface. Consider it a bonus to have a beautiful view and change of scenery that will keep things interesting. If you are looking for an upper body and core workout, consider renting a kayak or paddle board. Water sports on the ocean challenge your core to stabilize so you don’t fall in!3632609471_94005ce184_b

Explore the city streets by running

Perhaps you are more interested in getting to know the area you are visiting. What better way to familiarize yourself than by running on the streets? You’ll get so enthralled with exploring the beach town, you’ll be finished your workout in no time!

9704317021_2347980c63_b (1)Photo credit: daverose259 via Visualhunt / CC BY

Bodyweight exercises in your hotel room

If you’re short on time but still want an effective workout, there is a variety of movements you can do in your hotel room to raise your heart rate and torch calories. Create a 10 minute circuit consisting of as many rounds as possible of squats, burpees, planks, push ups and lunges. These types of exercises fall into a category of exercising called Metabolic Conditioning. Elevating your heart rate the way these exercises do will burn more calories, even AFTER your workout if complete, than a typical cardio workout.

Businessman in hotel room

Photo credit: Fitness Body Pro

Hit the Pool

When you go down to the pool, don’t just lay in the chairs next to the pool – take advantage of the weather and cool off by swimming laps. Swimming is a low impact, total body workout that will improve your cardiovascular health. Ease your way into it by starting with just a 20 minute swim and add five minutes each day.

h-swimming-pool

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Clean Eating is Bullsh*t and Here’s Why

Do you know any guys or gals that almost exclusively eat chicken breast, egg whites, and sweet potatoes? I would bet $100 that these same people do not hesitate to tell you that the secret to their six packs is “clean eating,” or a diet low in fat, low in high-glycemic carbs, and very high in lean protein. Oddly enough, have you ever noticed that despite their six packs, these individuals never seem to get any bigger or stronger? Yeah, there’s a reason for that, it’s because clean eating is bullshit.

New Girl eating jake johnson nick miller burrito

Why clean eating is bullshit

There are a handful of factors at play here, but the number one reason goes back to seventh grade biology class. Simply put, your body does not care about the origin of the calories you consume. On a chemical level, a gram of protein from a slice of cheese and a gram of protein from lentils are indistinguishable 1. Concentrations of certain amino acids may vary, sure, but at the end of the day the basic chemical compounds that we all consume to survive—proteins, fats, carbohydrates—are universal across food sources2. Pizza and turkey burgers are created equal.

T-Mobile Puerto Rico whatever shrug meh hmm

That’s it. That’s all there is to it. The concept of clean eating relies more on the supposed purity of the food sources than the actual chemical makeup of the macronutrients the eaters consume 3. You can consume the exact same amount of total calories, protein, fat and carbs via Poptarts, ramen noodles, and cheeseburgers, and still see the same results as that guy eating only chicken and brown rice 4. If you want photographic proof, look no further than Olympic record holder and goddamn American hero, Michael Phelps, who claimed to eat over 12,000 calories per day. Phelps ate a diet rich in blueberry pancakes and energy drinks, and was still ripped as hell 5

But wait, Ben, if that’s the whole secret, couldn’t I just eat a ton of turkey, sweet potato, and kale and still make gains while posting mirror selfies to Instagram? Yes, college freshman, yes you could, but that system is incredibly unreliable. Let me explain why with some quick numbers:

  • In order to gain muscle, you need to eat at a caloric surplus. That is to say, eat more calories than your body will burn
  • Our guinea pig, Chad, burns 2000 calories a day, so to see gains he should take in approximately 2400. Let’s break that down into three 800-calorie “clean” meals.
  • To hit 800 calories for breakfast, Chad would need to eat 5 eggs (350 calories), two slices of toast (240 calories), and 14 ounces of 2% milk
  • Lunch could be 3 chicken breasts (360 calories), one spoonful of olive oil (120 calories), a cup of rice (150 calories) and ¾ can of black beans (170 calories)
  • Dinner – you get the idea

Chad has to put away a large volume of food in each meal just to meet his caloric goals. Eating 5 eggs in one sitting sucks. Meanwhile, Chad could just add two chicken breasts (240 calories) to a pack of instant ramen (480 calories), plus a little oil (80 calories), to achieve the exact same effect. Why should Chad force himself to eat so much food in one sitting when he could eat more calorically dense foods for the same results? Not to mention, do you think he’s going to be able to accomplish that every single day? Unlikely.

crossfit

This may or may not be Chad

Did you also notice how fucking boring Chad’s diet is? One of the critical reasons clean eating fails is because cottage cheese, egg whites, chicken breast, spinach, all that stuff, fucking sucks 6.

Why would you eat a huge bowl of ground turkey when a cheeseburger is clearly the more desirable option? The one sure-fire way to fall off the exercise wagon is to couple it with food that you hate. Eating should be a fun, desirable experience, not a chore.

eating fighting squirrel lunch steal

Moderation is key

Now, before you go out and binge on Chipotle and Domino’s, you need to keep in mind that moderation is key. If you go ahead and eat “dirty” foods for all of your meals, don’t be surprised if you feel and perform like crap. You run the risk of malnutrition whenever you take a diet to the extreme—whether its clean or dirty7

 


  1. DGAC Advisory Committee, USDA. Part D, Section 3: Discretionary Calories. The Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005.

  2. Alan Aragon, The Dirt on Clean Eating, http://wannabebig.com/diet-and-nutrition/the-dirt-on-clean-eating/

  3.  Ibid

  4.  Madero M, et al. The effect of two energy-restricted diets, a low-fructose diet versus a moderate natural fructose diet, on weight loss and metabolic syndrome parameters: a randomized controlled trial. Metabolism. 2011 May 27. [Epub ahead of print] 17. Mozaffarian D, Clarke R. Quantitative effects on cardiovascular risk factors and coronary heart disease risk of replacing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils with other fats and oils. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009 May;63 Suppl 2:S22-33.

  5. http://blogs.wsj.com/health/2008/08/13/the-michael-phelps-diet-dont-try-it-at-home/

  6.  Tomiyama, A. J., Mann, T., Vinas, D., Hunger, J. M., DeJager, J., & Taylor, S. E. (2010). Low Calorie Dieting Increases Cortisol. Psychosomatic Medicine, 72(4), 357–364. http://doi.org/10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181d9523c

  7.  Brown, J. L., & Pollitt, E. (1996). Malnutrition, poverty and intellectual development. Scientific American, 274(2), 38-43.

Getting Over Dating Fears When You Have Body Image Issues

The waiter placed what looked like a mountain of meat on a plate in front of me.

“Here is the pulled pork and brisket combo.”

I watched as my order went to my date “and the grilled chicken salad with dressing on the side,” gets placed in front of her. An awkward silence ensued.

“Fuck, not again”

I thought to myself. Unfortunately this mix-up wasn’t the first. When you’re only a couple months out of treatment for anorexia you’re faced with situations like these. In a way you can’t blame the waiter, he was going off what he’s experienced, the man gets the big platter of meat while the woman gets the low calorie salad. But this order was an exception.

My date and I gave each other an awkward smile and switched plates. I scream inside. She will just think I eat healthy. I almost break down and vomit up my whole life story.  Getting out of a treatment program which was filled only with  women for a disorder that is predominantly  found in women  means you aren’t too emotionally secure. Hell, I probably shouldn’t have been dating. You gotta love yourself first, right? We finished our dinner and ended with a hug.

On the drive home I was so lost in my own thoughts. I kept thinking, “what is wrong with me?” and “If I could just be leaner everything would be better”. The unfortunate reality of receiving treatment is that treatment doesn’t end when you’re ready for it to end, but once you’re at a “clinically healthy” weight, insurance will stop footing the bill, so it’s bye bye. You’re kind of on your own after that.

I remember coming home and seeing my parents. They were happy to see me going out, dating, and acting like a normal twenty-something. I walked directly into my room took off my shirt and looked in the mirror. There was still a little edema 1 from the re-feeding phase. Blurred lines of definition looked back at me.

Part of me saw a frail body and another saw a big body. Not fat, but big. At 5’9 and 130 I was far from “big”. I sat at the end of my bed and started crying until no tears were left. Eventually I slipped into sleep.

I have learned that situations like this are going to happen, and that sometimes eating that plate of meat isn’t such bad thing. And whether you’re a male or female the hurt, hate, and loneliness of an eating disorder or body image still feels the same.

Writing has helped, though. When I was writing “When Was Your Last Period” my professor, who suffered from a similar disorder many years ago said to me, “It’s always going to be there, but eventually other things become more important.” She was right. I started working and couldn’t deal with the low energy and terrible concentration that came with self-starvation. I met a girl that I’m head over heels in love with and would rather spend a Sunday in bed with her than go for my run (plus she cooks the most amazing food I’ve had). So yes things have become more important. Do I still wish I was leaner? Yes. Do I sometimes fall back into bad habits, yes. But am I now being more proactive about not keeping up with those bad habits? You bet your ass.

We naturally compare ourselves and criticize ourselves. Every magazine cover, especially those directed towards women, has some article or dedicated section to looking leaner, tightening your stomach, losing 15lbs, etc. Society tends to have this idea that we automatically become a better person if we have a certain waist size. We know this because we treat those people better for no particular reason, other than how good looking we think they are. And I might sound like every self-help book out there but YOU AREN’T THE NUMBER ON THE SCALE.

When you let that define you, and let it control how you define others, you’ve lost touch with what is important. I heard that again and again when I was losing weight and never internalized the lesson. It took a chicken salad (of all things) for it to finally click. So let me save you the trouble (and medical costs, if I can): love your body and love yourself–because if you don’t, who else will? And FYI, the dressing doesn’t always need to be on the side. You’ll live…

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  1. a general response of the body to injury or inflammation

The 5 Easiest Ways to Take Control of Your Health

I think that New Year’s resolutions are bullshit, mainly because if you really want to change some aspect of your life you may as well start right now. However, I get that resolutions are an easy way for many people to finally take the plunge. With that in mind, I want you to join me in a resolution pledge this year: New Year, no excuses.

What does no excuses mean? It means that your old reasons for not taking control over your health are no longer valid. Let’s take a look at some of the most common excuses people give for skipping the gym, or eating poorly.

  • I’m too busy
  • I’m too tired after work
  • I’m really stressed out right now, I’ll start when things calm down

I hate to break it to you, but everyone is tired and stressed and busy. What will set you apart is the recognition that you can overcome all of these issues. This may seem like a daunting task, but the trick is to not dive in head first. We’re going to start small, and over time the little changes will add up to big gains. Here’s how we’re gonna do it.

Step 1

Write down a specific, long-term goal. Don’t just say “I want to lose weight,” say “I want to lose 10 pounds by Easter” or “I want to fit into my old jeans by Halloween.” When you write down specific goals achievement becomes tangible.

Step 2

Make a small change in your life. Do it today. Replace those Oreos on your grocery list with bananas. Go for a walk. Sign up for a gym membership, the expense alone will motivate you to go at some point. No bullshit excuses, do it today.

Step 3

Next week you’re going to make another small change. Bring a water bottle to work and drink from that instead of your lunchtime Diet Coke. Buy a pair of running shoes. Maybe you’ll feel guilty enough to actually take them out for a spin. Besides, who doesn’t love a new pair of shoes?

Step 4

Keep adding to the list of small changes you are making to your life. By now you should have accumulated a few. Take a deep breath and appreciate your work thus far.

Step 5

Check back in with your progress towards your original goal. Are the pounds starting to come off? Good, keep on doing what you’re doing! Are you not seeing much progress? Ramp things up a bit until you start to see results, then keep at it.

Is this all really so hard? If you said yes, then I’ll be honest with you, you’re lazy. For those of you that thought “Hell, even I can do that,” congratulations, you no longer have an excuse not to. Over time your hard work (and it will be hard at first, believe me) will pay off. Not to mention, five year high school reunions are coming up and you damn sure want all those assholes to be jealous. If the thought of not looking like your slobby, degenerate classmates doesn’t motivate you, I don’t know what will. Now go out there and make 2016 your bitch.

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How to Keep Healthy in the New Year Without Buying into a Worthless Diet

When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, most people include goals involving health and working out. Some want to start off the year fresh and shave off that weight they added over the holidays, while others are using the calendar switch as a good excuse to get started on a healthier lifestyle.

dog swag 2016 happy new year new year

If you are struggling to decide what you want to improve on or how to create the proper resolutions for yourself, I’m here to help.

Set realistic goals based on your past

If you are already an avid gym goer, think about what you can improve on during your time at the gym. Do you spend more time lifting and less time socializing? Are you walking out of the gym drenched in sweat? Are you pushing yourself to your maximum ability? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then reevaluate how you perform your workouts. If you’re just getting started, set realistic goals for yourself in terms of building muscle or shredding fat.

Don’t get discouraged

Seeing a change in your body won’t happen overnight. It might not even happen until well into February. But consistency is the key to success and in order for you to avoid losing steam and missing out on opportunity to change yourself in a positive manner, you need to just put your head down and go to work. Don’t question anything as long as you are giving it your all.

Research more

Whether you’re a seasoned vet or a young neophyte, there is always room to improve your techniques, add a new exercise to your routine, or clear up many of the misconceptions that exist in all corners of the fitness world. Read up.

Set new personal records in major lifts

Squat, Deadlift, Bench = major keys to success. One way to make sure you stick to your schedule is to have monthly PR checks. This means that once a month you try to beat your previous personal record weight in the three major lifts. Doing this will add purpose to your everyday workouts and give you a reason to push yourself during every workout.

The reason that many resolutions fail is because it is easier to bite off more than you can chew without devising a proper strategy to achieve your goals. Remember #1 when it comes to planning new goals throughout the year. 2016 shouldn’t just be about the start. You should be modifying your goals as your begin to progress and holding yourself accountable in order to maintain success in the iron temple.

Do not buy into a diet

In terms of diet and eating “healthier,” my advice is DON’T do it. Diets are meant to be broken. If you want to change your eating habits, you have to change your lifestyle. A simple change in thinking will go a long way. Instead of thinking, “I CAN’T have that piece of cake,” think, “Eh, I don’t really WANT that piece of cake.” If we are being honest though, I know we both really do want that piece of cake. We shouldn’t have to deny ourselves a basic human right to fulfill our sweet tooth. I try to eat as healthy as I can all the time, meaning chicken and veggie stir-fry, egg whites, Greek yogurt, etc. But once in a while if I’m craving warm, soft chocolate chip cookies then I go for it. The more you deny yourself, the harder you will end up binging later and this will only make you feel defeated.

Once again, remember #1 and start small. Cut out processed food, add green smoothies to your daily breakfast, or choose chicken instead of steak. Then slowly start being stricter and more detailed until you no longer think twice about making healthy options. #3 will take you a long way in terms of diet, and researching matters will help you avoid giving up on your goals and ending up at McDonald’s at 3 am on a Monday morning.

eating animated GIF

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Lifting Tips From A Professional Millennial Weightlifter

Tyler Yasuda is an elite ranked powerlifter, and natural pro bodybuilder. At only 21 years old, Tyler has established himself in the fitness and coaching communities as a wellspring of training knowledge and innovation. He coaches clients across the globe (including yours truly), not to mention the thousands of YouTube and Instagram followers that devour his content for training guidance. Aside from Tyler’s fitness accolades, he deserves recognition for co-founding Strength Vs. Cancer, a cancer research campaign that fundraises through strength based challenges and activities. Widely respected among industry insiders and outsiders alike, Tyler is skyrocketing into the ranks of the millennial generation’s best coaches.

 

Team Tytanium x The Campus Gym, Tyler is second from right

 

I got the chance to ask Tyler a few questions that I think every novice lifter should ask. Scroll down to have your mind blown.

What are the biggest mistakes people make when they are new to weight training?

The list would be way too long if I tried to think of all the common mistakes, so I’ll focus on one. Most lifters tend to allocate most of their time and effort into building strength with very little emphasis on learning and developing the skill of lifting. It makes sense – slapping more weight on the bar is a fun, tangible way to see progress. This type of progress becomes the singular goal and proper skill development takes a back seat. Over enough time, they might learn enough to recognize their technical error, but in most cases, they’ve already built a base of strength in poor positions. Their existing strength then becomes the largest obstacle to the improvement of their technique. The lifter is faced with a tough choice: either continue developing strength in what they now know to be poor positions, or accept a large regression in training numbers for the sake of gradually correcting their technique. This issue could have been circumvented entirely if they had developed good mechanics from the get go.

How should a novice weightlifter structure his or her workouts?

This depends mostly on the lifter’s goals. Training might be very different if the primary goal is strength compared to another lifter whose main goal is hypertrophy [muscle growth]. In general, a good starting point is to focus on one or two compound lifts [e.g. squat, bench, deadlift] along with a few accessory exercises to fill in the gaps for each training day. Other than that, I’d be sure to have a clear distinction between resistance training and cardio. Too many people will compromise performance in their resistance exercises for the sake of burning a few more calories by cutting rest times. Rather than accomplishing both goals at once, they ultimately hinder their progress on both fronts.

Tyler deadlifts 600lbs for 4 reps, 2 shown

How should novices set up training so that they continue to see progress over time, and do not plateau?

Rather than just going into the gym and doing whatever “feels right” that day, it makes sense to plan out your progression over time. One easy way to quantify and track performance is to calculate volume in each exercise. Multiplying your working weight by the total number of working reps done will give you a number for training volume. For example, if you do 3 sets of 10 reps with 200 pounds on your back squat, your volume calculation would be:

3sets * 10 reps/set * 200 lb = 6000 rep*lb

Your goal would be to exceed 6000 rep*lb in your future sessions. You may not increase your working volume in every single session, but as long as the general trend is upward, you know you are progressing.

Are there any exercises or movements that you discourage, or avoid?

I generally believe that exercises are safe when done properly and that most injuries and problems stem from poor technique, but there are definitely some exercises that expose trainees to unnecessary risk. The first example off the top of my head is the whole category of loaded instability exercises (bosu ball barbell back squats and the like). If you want to get stronger or build muscle, then lift some weights. If you want to improve your balance, then practice that skill. Combining the two is not only ineffective, but also fairly dangerous. How bad would it be if you fell off that ball with a barbell on your back?

Stop gluten shaming

Do novice lifters need to squat, bench press, and deadlift in order to see gains?

The only people that need the big three are those that compete in sports that require them to perform those movements. Everyone else could find other movements to replace the big lifts. Take the back squat for example. This movement involves hip flexion, hip extension, knee flexion, knee extension, hip abduction, hip adduction, and isometric stabilization through the torso. You could find other movements to train the same muscular functions to a similar effect, but the squat – and most other compound lifts – gives you a lot of bang for your buck. It might be a lot of work to learn how to do these exercises well, but if you are willing to do the work, they are valuable tools for all strength and physique athletes.

What are your tips for recovery from a big workout?

Food and time. Everyone wants to find an ancient Chinese secret, but as long as you have solid nutrition and sleep, the best you can do is be sure that you give your body enough time to recover. Sure, you can and should do your prehab/mobility/stretching, but there’s not much you can do to accelerate recovery at the rate that most people might hope.

TFW you have so much weight on the bar you need to duct-tape the plates together

What is one food item that every weightlifter should have in his or her pantry?

Frosted Mini Wheats! I’ll admit that this is just my preference, but they taste pretty good, and are easy to pack in your gym bag or just eat throughout the day. They have a decent amount of fiber and protein that will help you stay full until your next meal, and the nutrition is solid for all the people that track their numbers out there.

Are there any foods you suggest weightlifters avoid?

No foods should be totally off limits as long as they are consumed in reasonable amounts. That said, there are probably a few things to avoid before and during training. Don’t eat four pounds of chili, or drink two liters of coke, and then expect to throw on your lifting belt for an intense training session. I can tell you from personal experience that it doesn’t work.

What style of workout or selection of exercises do you recommend for people trying to lose weight?

Training should not be much different than for someone who is looking to build muscle. You’d still want to induce that hypertrophy response to ensure that you hold onto as much muscle as you can, and in order to accomplish that goal, the same principles apply. Do your resistance training to induce that response and adjust your cardio and nutrition to ensure weight loss. Let’s face it – nobody starts a diet saying “I’d like to lose 20 pounds of muscle this year”. Unless that is the case for you, you should be doing everything you can to preserve muscle as you diet down.

Are there any resources you recommend for novices? Websites, books, journals, etc?

Yes, hiring a knowledgeable coach. That was originally going to be a joke, but after thinking about it, I wish I had some guidance when I first got into lifting. I spent a good portion of my first few years discovering what didn’t work. A good coach could have steered me down the right path from the start and saved me from all the trial and error. Coaching isn’t necessary for everyone, but especially for newer trainees, it might be the fastest way to learn and start making sustainable progress. For all those do-it-yourselfers and college students who lack the budget for coaching, there are a ton of free resources out there. Rather than listing all of the books and websites that have probably already been mentioned by others, one suggestion that most people don’t think of is research databases. Most colleges and universities give their students access to their own research database, and you’re technically paying for it, so you might as well get the most of out of your tuition.

Want more? Check out Tyler’s YouTube and Instagram accounts for hours of additional tips, footage, and pictures of food.

Follow Tyler on Youtube at TytaniumFitnessChannel & Instagram at @tytaniumfitness

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Shake It Up | Best Post-Workout Protein Shakes

You just spent 90 minutes pushing your body to its limits and breaking down muscle fibers. The proper way (or should I say whey) to promote recovery and capitalize on gains in the gym is to finish off your workout with a protein shake. There are hundreds of different powders, liquids, and pre-made shakes to choose from, which may be overwhelming if you’re new to the scene.

gym kimbo slice protein ladainian tomlinson

My favorite brand and flavor of protein powder is the cookies and cream flavor of Gold Standard by Optimum Nutrition. I love its taste, and the overall simplicity and efficiency of the nutrient profile make it one of the best on the market in my opinion. Gold Standard Natural is even better because it is void of artificial ingredients and flavoring.

I have had years of experience in the art of shake making, and there are infinite ways to pimp your shake. Here are a few of my favorite recipes:

The Mean Green Protein Machine

Additions:

  • ½ Tbsp. Ground Flax Seed
  • ½ Tbsp. Chia Seed
  • Handful of Spinach
  • ¼ Tsp. Spirulina

PB and Gains

  • Base: 2% Milk
  • Fruit: Frozen Banana
  • Protein: Gold Standard Vanilla Whey

Additions:

  • 2 Tbsp. Peanut Butter
  • 1 Tbsp. Honey or Blue Agave
  • ½ Cup Almonds

The Willy Wonka

Additions:

  • ½ Tsp. 100% Pure Cocoa Powder
  • 1 Handful Ice
  • 3-4 Squares of Dark Chocolate
  • 1 Tbsp. Honey or Blue Agave

Strawberry and SpongeBob

  • Base: Unsweetened Almond Milk
  • Fruit:
  • 1 Cup Strawberries
  • 1 Cup Frozen Pineapple
  • Protein: Gold Standard Vanilla Whey

Additions:

  • ½ cup Cottage Cheese
  • ½ Tbsp. Ground Flax Seed

In general, the secret to changing the game in any of your shakes is a frozen banana. If you are opposed to the taste, you can try adding half a banana and using a more potent flavor like chocolate for your protein powder. In terms of additions, don’t be intimidated by green. You won’t taste spinach or spirulina in your shakes, but you’ll feel the added health benefits in the form of increased focused and a small boost in mental energy. Flax and chia seeds are good sources of fiber and add texture to the shake.

I have found that adding sliced pear or apple to any shake can give it an added sweetness boost without dramatically changing the flavor profile. Regular milk also works as a substitute for almond, and if you are really feeling bold you can try coconut milk. If you decide to go the coconut route, ditch the frozen banana and stick to chocolate flavored protein powder. In the end the choice is yours, and trying out different shakes can serve as motivation to maintain consistency in your workout routine.

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Gym Accessories: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

‘Tis the season for holiday wish lists and checks from relatives you didn’t know had your new address. Since I know you’ve been reading my columns (*cough cough*) in your quest for strength, weight loss, or overall fitness, I’m sure you’ve also been thinking about your gym accessories. You know, those fun things you bring along to the gym to improve your workout, or maybe just look cool? Either way, I’m here to help you navigate the best, and the worst, of the gym accessories that you want to see under the menorah or Christmas tree.

The Good

Lifting belts

Quality lifting belts are popular among lifters who want to get a little bit more out of their barbell exercises. Belts work by tightening against your abdominal muscles. When your abs contract during a lift, they push against the belt, which pushes back. The increased force produced in your core helps to a) increase core activation b) stabilize your torso, which is crucial to maintaining good form and c) recruiting more of the small muscles in your back, the most likely culprits of back pain[1]. Personally, I love my EliteFTS 2-prong lever belt, but a generic leather belt (none of that polyester bullshit) found at any Sports Authority would do the trick. Here’s a quick tutorial.

Straps

You’ve definitely seen these abused by high schoolers struggling to eke out reps on the lat pulldown machine. Straps are a highly versatile tool; use them for farmer’s walks, front squats, or heavy deadlifts. If you have issues with your grip strength, straps are a blessing and a curse. While they augment your natural grip by helping you hold onto the bar or dumbbell, straps will only give you the illusion of a stronger grip. My suggestion is to use them only when you really need them. Straps should be thick, almost rope-like in construction. Keep them in your gym bag for those difficult sets. Watch this man with shit deadlift form teach you to use straps

Yoga mat

Okay, so this is more of a home gym accessory, but you can bring a yoga mat anywhere if you really want. First of all, if you’re not doing yoga, start doing yoga because it will make you feel amazing. Second, a yoga mat is an excellent resource to have at home for your basic stretching needs. You won’t get all dusty from your un-vacuumed carpet, and you never have an excuse to not stretch if you’re living in post-grad luxury (a.k.a an apartment with hardwood floors). Too tired to hit the gym after work? Throw down the yoga mat and strike some poses. Sore as hell from yesterday’s workout? You know the drill, take it to the mat. The possibilities are endless.

The Bad

Headphones

I want to make an important distinction here between headphones and earbuds. Earbuds are small stereophonic devices inserted directly into the ear canal. Headphones, meanwhile, are obtrusive, often heavy, listening wear designed for casual music listeners or in-studio rappers to fidget with while they go about their non-exercising lives.

Headphones are a bad gym accessory because they are effectively noise-cancelling, making you oblivious to your surroundings (e.g. some idiot dropping his dumbbells, as well as being likely to slip and slide all over your sweaty face.

Your cell phone

That’s right, I said it. Put your phone away. Think about how much time you spend everyday staring at your phone, what could possibly happen if you spent an hour apart? Your time at the gym ought to be cathartic, this is your opportunity to focus on your workout and your body, not to be distracted by another text you’ll wait to answer anyway. To quote a friend of mine, “maybe if you didn’t spend your workout on Instagram, you wouldn’t look the same as you did last year.”

The Ugly

Gloves

Oh, I’m sorry, are you worried about ruining your delicate hand model hands? Don’t waste your time or money on gloves; just buy some hypoallergenic hand lotion for your sensitive skin. Your land tilling, dirt-under-the-fingernails, manual laboring, peasant ancestors would be ashamed of you.

It’s time to pull up your big boy/girl pants and handle weight like God intended you to, calluses and all. Invented by weaklings, for weaklings, gloves create a mirage of protection for those that have never worked a day in their lives. If you own a pair of gloves, do yourself a favor and toss them into a fucking bonfire.

[1] http://www.strengtheory.com/the-belt-bible/

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Train Like A Wrestler and Shed that Turkey Poundage

Winter is the season many abuse to hide under sweatpants and jackets, obscuring their pizza-and-Chipotle-fueled bellies, all under the guise of “winter bod.” While I understand the hibernation instinct, I was never afforded that luxury. As a varsity wrestler in high school, my task was to stay at or under my weight class from December through February. While many assume that all wrestlers starve themselves to make weight, the reality is that many of us manipulated weight loss through careful diet and exercise.

Don’t waste the winter months gaining weight you need to lose come April. Diet like a wrestler now to show off a beach bod in March.

 

Diet

The core tenet of the wrestler diet is simple: stick to three square meals per day, no seconds and no dessert. If you’re like me, you probably eat this way most of the time. Small breakfast, big lunch followed by an even bigger serving of coffee, dinner with a side of Netflix. The trick is to cut out the snacks that inevitably sneak in the excess calories. Here’s what an average day might look like:

  • Breakfast: 2 eggs, a little cheese, water or juice (no more than 1 small glass of juice).
  • Lunch: Protein of your choice (about the size of your fist), no more than 1.5 cups of rice or pasta, plenty of veggies. Stick to water, coffee or tea. No soda.
  • Dinner: Chicken, fish or tofu, either roasted or pan-fried in a little oil or butter. Rice and beans on the side, plenty of other veggies. Again, no soda.

For best results, I recommend that you avoid prepared foods. Prepared foods tend to be high in sodium and fat, causing you to carry extra water weight as well as take in unforeseen calories. Yes, this means limiting meals out, too. Your wallet will thank me later.

Exercise

All of this diet advice would be moot if you didn’t harness its value to the fullest extent, namely, by pairing it with exercise. To be quite honest, this is the easy part. I find it much easier to commit to the gym than, say, committing to not eating a whole pizza, but I digress.

The wrestler workout plan is simple, but taxing nonetheless:

Monday/Wednesday/Friday: Cardio of your choice, 30-45 minutes

  • If you choose to use the stationary bike, you must keep your RPM 80 or higher

Tuesday/Thursday: Lift

This workout should be quick, no more than 1 hour start to finish. Keep rest periods short.

Choose weights that you can perform for 12 reps, although you’ll not do more than 10 reps.

  • Squat: 4 x 10
  • Leg Press: 4 x 10
  • Bench Press: 4 x 10
  • Dumbbell shoulder press: 4 x 10
  • 3 ab exercises of your choice, 30 reps each

Saturday: Do some yoga, go for a walk, whatever you do don’t sit on your ass

Sunday: Sit on your ass today, you earned it

Difficulty Levels

Normal: The plan prescribed above. You’ll probably eat out once or twice a week, and you’ll most likely have a few drinks on Saturday.

Hard: The plan prescribed above, except you never eat out, and definitely don’t drink every weekend.

The plan prescribed above, you never eat out, and you’re sober for New Year’s.

Regardless of how intense you choose to make this diet, commitment is key. Don’t overeat, exercise plenty, keep cheating to a minimum, and you’ll be in prime form in no time.

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Shed the Holiday Poundage with Another Torch Tuesday

How are you going to survive the dirty temptations of the holiday season? Well if you’re like me, you’re not. The sight of soft chocolate chip cookies is enough to render my normally rock solid resistance futile

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I like to keep my workout intensity high when I know that I’m going to be deviating a little from my normal healthy diet. You shouldn’t feel like you have to deny yourself of the sweets and treats of the holiday season, but if you want to avoid getting soft then you’re going to have to put in some extra work. That being said, lets get into this week’s Torch Tuesday.

The Warmup

3 Rounds

  • 30 Second Jumping Jacks
  • 20 Second Butt Kickers
  • 10 Second Rest

The Torch

5 rounds

  • 20 Seconds In and Out Jump Squats
  • 10 Second Rest
  • 20 Second High Knees
  • 10 Second Rest
  • 20 Second Mountain Climbers
  • 10 Second Rest
  • 20 Second Burpees
  • 10 Second Rest

Next Level

If you’re roasted after the Torch then pat yourself on the back and go have a few chocolate chip cookies. It’s meant to tire you out, but if you’re in advanced shape and you want to keep pushing yourself, or you really want to feel less guilty about that piece of cheesecake, then follow it up with this afterburner:

  • 10 Hill Sprints (at least 15 Seconds of 100% effort)

Note: Walk down the hill after each sprint and catch your breath. The minute you reach your starting mark, turn around and kick it into high gear again. Push your limits and don’t cheat yourself. You won’t regret it.

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