Why Diets Don’t Work

Kyle’s post on dieting inspired me to share some of my thoughts on the subject too. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of diets.  A diet is, by definition, a restrictive practice that you do for a limited time.  The implication is that you will stop dieting at some point and resume your normal eating behavior.  When you do that you’ll just return to how you were and all that work will be for nothing.

The solution is to change the way you eat.  You don’t want to diet and count calories for the rest of your life.  You want to adopt a healthy lifestyle that lets you enjoy your food and enjoy life. The problem is that it’s hard to know where to get started.

The truth is, this is something I learn about every day. It’s something I’ve been learning about for the last decade – and every day I learn something new. Of all the things you are committed to in your life, your body should be at the top of that list. Make a commitment to yourself to learn how to live a healthy life.

The best book I have EVER read on this subject is called “How to Eat, Move, and Be Healthy” by Paul Chek.  It’s about $16 on Amazon.  I highly recommend it.  More than any other piece of literature it’s deeply affected the way I think about food and health. Paul Chek is a really interesting guy too. Check out this interview he did recently.

[ photo: flickr ]

Delicious Pasta salad in under 20 minutes


This is one of my favorite post workout meals.  It’s really easy to make, full of high quality protein and fiber, and tastes awesome.  You can make this in under twenty minutes and take the left overs to work or eat them over a few days.  I like the salad both hot and cold.

Easy Pasta Salad

6 oz Barilla whole grain rotini (about half the box)
7 oz chunk light tuna
2 medium sized tomatos, diced
6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
Half a big red onion, finely chopped
1 tablespood olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste


Bring a pot of water to boil.  Once it’s boiling, add a dash of olive oil and salt to the water, then add the rotini.  Cook for about 10 minutes or until desired hardness is reached.

While the water is boiling, chop up the tomatos, garlic, and red onion and put it all in a large mixing bowl.

When the pasta is ready, throw it in the mixing bowl with a tablespoon of olive oil.  Add salt and pepper to taste, and mix it all up.  You’re done.  ENJOY!

The best food to eat before and after a workout

proteinshakeOver the years I’ve come to realize that the most important meals of the day are breakfast, what you eat just before your workout, what you eat right after your workout, and what you eat just before bed.  I’ll cover the breakfast and just before bed meals in another post.

The most important thing to remember about pre-workout nutrition is that you want to eat something that’s going to give you lots of energy for the workout.  After a workout you want something that’s going to quickly replenish your energy and help your muscle’s recover fast.  If you’re trying to lose weight, these are the wrong meals to cut calories from.

If you cut calories from your pre-workout meal you’ll be reducing the energy you have for your workout – you’ll be getting less out of it.  Furthermore you’re putting your body into a catabolic state (a severe caloric deficit), which promotes muscle degeneration.  That’s right, you’re actually making your body weaker, destroying muscle, and as a result, further slowing your metabolism.  All things you want avoid.

A good guideline is to take 0.25g of protein and 0.25g of carbs per pound of your target body weight (the body weight you want to achieve) 30 – 60 minutes before a workout and again right after your workout.  So if you want to weigh 200 lbs, you would eat 50g of protein and 50g of carbohydrates before and after a workout.

Don’t be afraid to consume sugar after a workout.  Right after working out you want food that your body can digest quickly to satisfy your body’s nutritional needs. Sugar causes your blood glucose levels to rise, causing insulin to be released.  After a workout is the only time you actually want to spike your insulin to encourage muscle recovery. That insulin helps drive nutrients into your muscle tissues quicker, which enables your muscles to grow and recover faster.

Personally I like to eat a banana or an apple and a protein shake before a workout.  Other pre-workout meals that I eat are a light sandwich with whole wheat bread and turkey slices or fruit and boiled eggs.

Post workout I drink a protein shake with high sugar content – these are usually called weight gainers.  I do this even when I’m cutting.  Remember – cutting calories after a workout is the last thing you want to do.  My favorite is EAS Mass Factor.  It’s got just under 600 calories per serving with 52g of protein and 84g of carbohydrates.  I’ll usually follow that up with a solid meal an hour later with chicken breast and whole wheat pasta or brown rice.

If you don’t feel comfortable taking consuming a high calorie protein shake after a work out, drink a regular protein shake and eat some fruit.  Just make sure that you consume some sort of simple sugars and, ideally, liquid protein.  The last thing you want is for you workout to cause you to actually lose muscle instead of gaining it.  If you want to get really deep into the subject of pre and post workout meals, check out this forum thread on bodybuilding.com.

Superfood you can make in under 30 minutes


Here’s one of my favorite recipes that can be made in well under 30 minutes.  A lot of people aren’t too familiar with quinoa.  It’s an ancient South American pseudo grain.  It looks like a grain but is actually more closely related to leafy plants like beets and spinach.  The Incas revered it as the “mother grain” for it’s highly nutritious nature.  It’s very healthy for you, high in fiber and protein, and can be found in stores like Whole Foods.

Quinoa Mediterranean Delight

1 cup quinoa
1 cup canned sweet corn
1 cup chopped black olives
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 table spoon olive oil
1 table spoon ground pepper
1 table spoon ground salt


Combine 1 cup quinoa with 2 cups of cold water in pot.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover.  Simmer until most of the water is evaporated – about 15 minutes.

Combine the quinoa, corn, black olives, feta cheese, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a glass bowl and mix everything together with your hands.  Be sure to really squish the feta with the grain to give it a particularly tasty texture.  Eat it warm or cold.  This makes about 5 servings.  Enjoy!

What everyone should know about organic food

What you should know about the organic food debate

I’ve often wondered what the big deal about organic food was.  Most people are either religious about organic food or they don’t know enough to have an educated opinion.  I fall in the latter category.  I’ve always found it frustrating that I consider myself an above average healthy person yet I feel completely uninformed when it comes to the organic food debate.  I decided to do some research and share what I found.

There are a number of angles to consider in the organic debate from environmental impact to animal cruelty to nutritional value to food toxicity.  What I found was that regardless of what position you take on the ethical or environmental issues, conventional methods of farming turn your body into a chemistry lab.

Continue reading What everyone should know about organic food

Get Instant Energy: Drink More Water!


This one of the most overlooked and under appreciated ways of feeling awesome right away. Most people simply don’t realize how much better they would feel if they only drank more water. They spend their days completely dehydrated. If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.

When your body gets dehydrated, your organs get depleted of fluid. Dehydration causes fatigue, headaches, back pain, and a plethora of other discomforts. It also makes you more susceptible to physical injury since it takes fluid away from your muscles and inhibits them from properly responding to stress.

Continue reading Get Instant Energy: Drink More Water!

The Math of Weight Loss

Losing weight is really simple math. One pound of fat equals 3500 calories. Cut 500 calories a day out of your diet and you’ll lose a pound a week. Easy right? Well, yes and no. The fact is, it’s really easy to lose weight. But it’s also really easy to sabotage yourself.

I lost 25 pounds in 2 months. I didn’t change my exercise routine. I didn’t start doing more or less cardio. I just changed my diet. In fact, all I did was count my calories. I got myself a Bodybugg and figured out exactly how many calories my body burns every day. Most days I burn between 3200 and 3800 calories. I figured I burn an average of 3500 calories a day.  You don’t need a Bodybugg to do this.  Just figure out what your Base Metablic Rate is using any one of the many online calculators.

I set up my diet so that I would consume 2000 – 2500 calories a day across 6 meals. That’s about 300 – 500 calories per meal. I gave myself a range of flexibility so that I could maintain my sanity.

The results I got were exactly what the math suggested they would be:

Daily caloric deficit = 3,500 – 2,000 = 1,500 calories
Time on diet = 60 days
Total calories burned = 60 days x 1,500 = 90,000 calories
Total pounds of fat burned = 90,000 / 3500 = 25.7

Of course it’s not quite that simple if you start factoring in body fat percentage and actual fat loss. If you’re just trying to lose weight in a healthy and sustainable way, this is the most effective diet there is – it’s called common sense. Eat healthy, count your calories. I cannot stress how important counting your calories is. I had a rule: if I couldn’t figure out how many calories were in something, I couldn’t eat it. If you’re in a restaurant or preparing something that is so complicated you can’t figure out what its nutritional value is, it’s probably not going to help your diet. Nothing will make you lose weight faster than being aware of every single thing you’re putting in your body. That awareness is what prevents diet sabotage, specifically, eating snacks on the side that completely negate your diet.

Eating healthy is actually pretty simple. Drink at least a gallon of water a day and try to eat six times a day. My diet consisted of foods low in sugar and low in fat, with an emphasis on complex carbs and protein. Avoid fried foods and sugary sodas. When you eat, try to pick food from the following groups, always making sure to include at least one item from protein and one from starchy carbs or vegetables.

lean pork
lean cuts of beef
cottage cheese

Starchy carbs:
brown rice
whole wheat pasta
whole wheat bread

any sort of green leafy stuff

Good snacks:
grilled chicken breast
lean cold cuts

Add for flavor and texture:
light soymilk
plain yogurt

Before (4/4/2009)
Before (4/4/2009)
After (5/27/2009)
After (5/27/2009)

Where did the body metrics go?

I stopped posting daily body metrics after July 4th.  Tracking my daily calories and workouts can be a fun and challenging process.  However, the value of it isn’t really in the daily data, but rather in the periodic analysis of the data.

I’ve been spending well over half an hour a day just posting daily stats data.  Aside from my day to day diet, which tends to repeat itself, the daily stats don’t really add value.  With that in mind, I’ve decided to save you some bandwidth and save me some time.  What I will continue to do is track every aspect of my body and post that infomation in an analytical weekly blog post designed to study trends in my progress.  I hope this will give you some insight into what works and what doesn’t.  I’d love to hear any advice you have as well.  I’ve never done a body building competition before and if you have any suggestions, I welcome them.

Daily Body Metrics 07/04/09

Fourth of July was a “relaxation” day.  I thoroughly enjoyed half a pizza and really didn’t think about my fitness much for a whole day.  The workout is actually from the day before, but I figured I’d just merge the Friday and Saturday post.  I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed for the last two weeks, and needed a weekend off.  I spend all of Sunday watching the Matrix trilogy.  Yes, all three movies.  It was awesome.  I’ve only ever seen them once.  I forgot how good those movies are, especially when you watch them back to back.

Calories out: 3261, Calories in: 4097, Protein: 264g, Carbs: 370g, Fat: 111g

Continue reading Daily Body Metrics 07/04/09

Daily Body Metrics 07/02/09

I had a great workout yesterday with a lot of focus on rehabing my shoulder and spine muscles.  I spent 45 minutes just doing shoulder blade rotations, shoulder blade pushups, and stretches.  Then Eddie and I did a light back workout with a strong emphasis on perfect form.

Calories out: 3272, Calories in: 3300, Protein: 255g, Carbs: 395g, Fat: 78g

Continue reading Daily Body Metrics 07/02/09