The 23 Hour Plan: How to Maximize Your Time Outside the Gym

We talk a lot about what to do in the gym. How many sets? Reps? What weight should I use? What are the best exercises for building a huge deadlift? But training is, like, one hour of the day, so what are you doing during the other 23?

While those hours may not seem all that important, you better have them dialed in because I can guarantee it's affecting your training.

Thus, let me quickly layout for you The 23 Hour Plan:  your guide to making the most of your time outside the gym.


Sleep is the ultimate form of rest. Shut your body off → tweak your brain activity → dream about Anna Kendrick → hopefully wake up refreshed.


There are a lot of things that go into waking up feeling refreshed, so here are some tips.

Sleep quantity: sleep 7-9 hours a night

Experiment to find what works for you. If you listen to the other points I’m about to make, you probably won’t need quite as many hours.

Shoot for the same wake and bed times each night

Circadian rhythm is the ~24-hour wake cycle that our bodies have internalized over years of evolution on earth (though it’s not quite 24-hour cycles). Your hormones fluctuate over different hours of the day, and this helps optimize your performance on whatever you’re doing. For example, your stress hormone levels start peaking about an hour before you wake up and are usually highest around this time. This helps you wake up, but can only be used if your body knows when your wake time is.

If you have trouble finding the energy to get out of bed in the morning, I would heavily consider implementing this tip.

Turn off electronics 1 hour before bed

Electronics interfere with those sensors in your body that tell you when the day is over. This is one of the reasons that it’s so easy to stay up all night playing a good video game.

It’s best to turn off the electronics all together and keep them out of your bedroom so you’re not tempted. Other solutions include buying glasses that block blue light and installing f.lux so that your computer screen color adapts to the time of day. There are also various programs you can install on your phone to do the same thing to your mobile screen.

Do stuff during the day

If you don’t feel tired at night, maybe you just need to wear yourself out during the day. Some polls that are potentially related to this come from the National Sleep Foundation that say 67% of vigorous exercisers can usually fall asleep within 15 minutes on workdays, compared to only 42% of non-exercisers. Sure, this doesn’t mean that exercise leads to better sleep, but they tend to go hand-in-hand.

Anecdotally, I’ve also found that mental tasks do this for me. If I spend 10 hours reading and writing, I’m exhausted by the end of the day. My writing turns to mush and my eyes can no longer follow words on a page. In these cases, it’s so easy to get into bed.

For more on sleep, check out


Mental Breaks

You can’t always have that GO GO GO mentality and expect your performance to stay high. Taking mental breaks throughout the day to block out the noise and clear your thoughts helps you stay focused on your most important tasks. How do you give your brain a rest?

Mindfullness Meditation

The idea of being “in the moment” is useful here, and there are plenty of ways to do it. The most deliberate method is mindfulness meditation (if you want a quick guided tour of this activity, go here or download Calm on your phone).

Eat in Silence

It’s important to note that you don’t have to simply be sitting cross-legged with your knees above your hips and listening to sounds of the ocean to be mindful. If you’re working alone, you can eat in silence. Taste your food. Feel its texture. This short break might be all you need.

If you’re working with others, you can eat with them and have a conversation. This can be especially helpful if you need a jolt of creativity and also offers up another benefit of having social human interactions (more on this later).

Go For a Walk

One of my favorite methods is to go for a short walk because I get a mental break from whatever I’m working on, I get up and move around, and I can give my eyes a rest from computer screens and close up book pages. Even ten minutes outside is surprisingly refreshing.


Physical Breaks

Just like your brain can’t be turned on all day, neither can your body.

Low-intensity exercise

For one, constant high-intensity exercise can be bad for you just like inactivity. More isn’t always better. Complement your high-intensity work with low-intensity work to help jump start your recovery.

The perfect posture

I have a lot of people ask me what is the perfect standing or sitting posture. The problem is that there is no perfect posture. Posture should be thought of as more of a dial than a switch. As Dr. Stuart McGill, a leading spine researcher at the University of Waterloo, has said, “The best posture is the one that is constantly changing.”

Long-duration sitting is poison. Sitting all day uses the same muscles to hold you up ALL DAY. When you walk, however, they get a break every other step you take. Plus you start to move things around in the body, pumping fluids out of places they might get stuck. The point I’m trying to make here is that movement is medicine.

If you need a better posture when sitting, try this:

- Get a chair that allows your heels to be on the floor with your butt all the way back in the arm rest. If necessary, get blocks or books to put under your feet. This will take tension out of your low back.

- For a better sitting posture, sit up tall, then slouch a little. You should feel your sit bones under each butt cheek and your mid-to-low back in the back rest.

- Your arms should be supported by armrests without having to reach down to feel them. This is especially important if you feel a lot of tension in your neck when you sit.

- Whatever you’re working on should be near eye level. If typing, the keyboard and mouse should be around the level of the armrests or slightly above.

- Do not allow your head to move to focus your eyes. Instead, move the screen or your chair.

Give your eyes a break

The eyes are good at accommodating to whatever requires your attention. If that thing is close, like a computer screen, they converge onto the screen so you can focus and block out your peripheral vision. If you need to read the area around you, like when you’re on the field, your eyes diverge and take in the whole scene. Just like how walking gives one side of your body a rest while it’s in the air, you want to alternate your visual patterns from time to time. Have I convinced you to go for a walk outside yet?

Reset exercises

We, as humans, are right-sided. We appear symmetrical from the outside with two arms, two legs, two chests, etc., but if you look closer, we’re actually very asymmetrical. Due to this asymmetry, some people might find it harder to “find and feel” their left side, whether that be their left foot, left leg, left arm, left visual field, whatever.

The fix here could be very complex, which is why I recommend everyone get a knowledgeable coach, but you can incorporate some postural tweaks for a few minutes throughout the day to remind yourself that you have a left side.

- Stand with your left leg back a little behind your right and right hip in front of your left

- Let your left shoulder fall down toward your left hip

- Look forward and notice something in your left peripheral vision

These aren’t magic tricks, but they can help you feel a little better throughout the day.

Additionally, you can do some exercises once a day. There are endless variations that I might choose from and I cannot determine which is the right one for you without working with you, but here’s a relatively simple one that most people benefit from:

What you eat fuels your body, so eat well. I’m sure I don’t need to convince you of that at this point in your health adventures.

Avoid things that cause stomach issues

Farts aren’t just things that are funny, they are indicative of what’s going on in your gut. I don’t know about you, but when I have terrible gas, I do NOT feel well. Pay attention to how your body responds to the things you eat and avoid things that make you feel crappy (that pun was unintended, but man that’s funny).

Human Interaction

In the 20th century, there was a now famous researcher named Harry Harlow who studied social isolation in monkeys. These monkeys lived in complete social isolation for extended periods of time and ended up being messed up. Consider this quote from one of his published studies:

“No monkey has died during isolation. When initially removed from total social isolation, however, they usually go into a state of emotional shock, characterized by the autistic self-clutching and rocking illustrated in Figure 4. One of six monkeys isolated for 3 months refused to eat after release and died 5 days later. The autopsy report attributed death to emotional anorexia. A second animal in the same group also refused to eat and would probably have died had we not been prepared to resort to forced feeding.” (Harlow et al, 1965)

Autistic Self Clutching
Autistic Self Clutching

His research prompted great advances in both science and animal rights activity.

I tell you this to illustrate the issues with social isolation. I encourage you to be around people. Not just any people, but people who allow you to be yourself.

Go out for a meal (or have a dinner party)

Just as you can use your meals as a mental time out, you can also use them as an avenue for good conversation. Invite some people over and make food, or you can all go out to get some.

Watch a movie

If movies are your thing, maybe you watch something together and discuss it afterwards. You can also discuss after the fact if you’re the type of person who yells at the screen and doesn’t want your friends to see that.

Have sex

I don’t think I’ll have trouble convincing anyone that this can be effective for making you feel better. Avoid anything that’s emotionally abusing for you or your partner. Same goes for physical abuse (unless it’s consensual, but then I believe it’s considered a fetish and not an abuse).

Ultimately, do whatever you want! You know what makes you happy better than I do.

Invest in Yourself

If your stuff gets stolen from your car, it’s gone forever. It’s relatively easy for this to happen. It is much harder for someone to steal a part of you.



Read books. This is the easiest way to find a new mentor to influence your life.

Watch things that aren’t mindless

YouTube has cool stuff all over it. And if you don’t know what a TED talk is, you should start here. Endless topics have been discussed, so search for something that interests you.


The overarching theme here is learning. Assimilate experiences and knowledge like it’s your job to keep your body and mind healthy.

The 23-Hour Plan

Alright, write this list down somewhere important. Do you remember what we talked about?

- Sleep

- Take physical and mental breaks

- Eat well

- Interact with other humans

- Invest in yourself

What kinds of things do you do to maximize your 23 hours? Leave a comment below and share your wisdom!

about the author


Lance Goyke, CSCS, is a Nerd Extraordinaire and secret admirer of lesbians everywhere whose expertise focuses on the human body. His clientele ranges from other trainers to kids to house moms to fighters to baseballers to anyone who needs to be taught how to exercise. Go invade his home base at

Performance Based Nutrition: How to Forge Your Own Plan

“I’m absolutely stuffed; I feel like I’m going to explode. I’m so dead from eating all of this food but I can only eat so much (incredible laughter ensues)...On the way home, can we stop at a gas station to grab a few muscle milks?” While sitting in a Chipotle in Columbus, Ohio, Zach Hadge sat complaining about his “sour belly” from the bolus of food he just had. Except, bolus is an exaggeration and it was maybe more like a forkful

Immediately after hearing this I started laughing because I knew once I looked at his plate it was going to be full. Sure enough, it was, it literally could have been returned for full price. It looked like he did nothing more than twirl around some sour cream. He should have been starving, on account of the fact that he missed breakfast, and trying to gain weight for the Arnold.  Instead, he ate minimal food, and drank maybe two of the four muscle milks we got on the way home.

Now I am not sharing this with you to show that Zach is an elite level food waster, it is to show how incredibly intelligent and resilient the human body is. I also programmed for Zach leading up to this Arnold and I saw the stress from training Zach put on his body. How can sub optimal nutrition somehow fuel a world champ? Really...think about how big of a deal it is to be a world champion in something, even for a short period of time. Knowing how big of a role nutrition plays in performance, how is it possible that anyone can get to that level without perfect macros?

This is because everything works in nutrition. It has to...because if it doesn’t, you die.

It really is that simple: the human body is incredibly adaptive.

If your body couldn’t adapt to the non paleo, gluten filled, GMO stuffed food like substances we consume, you would slowly deplete to death. This adaptive process, however, is what makes nutrition so difficult to manage. You can count every macro and eat for absolute optimal health and still end up with a heart attack, and you can eat candy and be a world champ.


At a lean 230 I can almost guarantee Zach was not taking in much more than 3000kcal leading up to the Arnold World Championships due to an inconsistent appetite. It's typical for Zach to eat sour patch kids and/or snickers intra workout. Some people just have the predisposition to put on lean mass very easily, while keeping body fat very low. Of course, I am picking out the worst nutritional habits Zach had, but his daily approach was far from what many would consider an optimal performance based weight gain diet.

With that in mind, anyone who is looking to take their performance or health to the next level should put some effort into their nutrition. With nutrition being the broad topic it is, most people are left with a few options:

  1. 1.  Hire a coach
  2. 2.  Forge your own plan
  3. 3.  Steal one from a teen girl magazine
  4. 4.  Go on without self improvement.

Well not everyone has the means or the desire to work with a coach, teen girl magazines haven't gotten anyone to an above average level in ever, and if you have any level of motivation, not making a change isn’t an option.

This leaves you with forging your own plan. Scary, huh?

With all of these different methods, it can be difficult deciphering exactly how to go about drawing up a nutrition plan. Thus, I have outlined the most important steps you must take into consideration to have an effective meal plan.

  1. Intake

There is a hierarchy of importance in nutrition. Many people will argue the amount of energy (calories) taken in each day will play the largest role in what direction a meal plan will take. The biggest misconception about this is the “clean eating” fad where people eat as much as they want as long as the food carries the healthy connotation. Yes, it is a step in the right direction for many people and it does drive results to some degree, however, it is far from the most important step.

To put this in better perspective we will use the example of John. John is a 190lb male that has been resistance training with intent for a few years and has developed some respectable strength. He is already relatively lean and follows the clean eating approach. Most lean individuals who train regularly do not necessarily have a haphazard enough habitual meal plan to see negative effects, like decreased body composition, getting weaker, tired all day etc. However, he is certainly not getting the most out of his meal plan.

The next step is to attack intake directly, or the amount of calories a person should be taking in. Caloric intake is completely dependent on the individual. Factors like lifestyle, genetics, body comp, training frequency, past nutritional habits, allergies, diseases...and the list goes on and on. In simplest terms, if you’re a shredded 250 you can handle significantly more calories than a sloppy 175.

Sounds simple, but that means there is a little bit of math involved using information you must obtain from yourself or your client. This means there should be an extensive and confidential exchange of information regarding current and past health, goals, current eating habits, activity level etc.

Here are two examples on how I came to find the appropriate caloric intake for two different athletes:

BW*1.5 easy estimation of maintenance kcal for a trained population

Female, 26, novice strength athlete, 130lbs:

Training Day: 2100kcal

Non Training Day: 1800kcal

Baseline: Approx 1900-2000

This is a simple meal plan:  she trains at the same times 4 times a week with her only goals being improved body composition and strength. I had previously worked with this client for some time trying to increase her intake, and based on how her bodyweight responded to the changes we made over several weeks I estimated she was between 1900 and 2000kcal to maintain her bodyweight. I simply did slightly under that for her non-training day to allow her to consume more on her training days. This should tip the scale slightly close to or over 2000kcal.

Male, 21, 166 NCAA Wrestler, 8-10 weeks out of a large tournament where he will cut to 157:

High Intensity Training Day: 2800kcal 3x a week

Moderate Intensity Training Day: 2500kcal 3x a week

Non Training Day: 2000kcal 1x a week

Weekly Intake: 2555kcal

This is a more complex situation to determine intake because of his goals and, more specifically, his lifestyle. Being a student athlete is difficult, being a student and a wrestler is very difficult, being a student and a competitive wrestler attempting to compete unaffiliated with the school while in school is insane. Adding a weight cut to that lifestyle demands special attention and a close relationship with the athlete to ensure success of the program. Especially when handling weight cuts it is important to have open and frequent communication with the athlete.

At this point, we are in a transitory period, switching goals from more off-season based to a specific tournament. Thus, I am putting minimal emphasis on weight loss, and focusing on maintaining weight while we transition in training.

As your training week changes and you intake different amounts every day it is simple to average your intake for the week. Just add up the kcal for each day of the week and divide by 7. This is a good indication of where weekly kcal is, and allows me keep a closer eye on his intake as his schedule changes.

As he transitions through a pre/off-season training block, where strength and general work capacity are high, keeping his intake high is essential to not only allow the adaptations to be more permanent but to ensure he can continue to adapt at a high rate.

The way you distribute their food is the next important concept. If you have someone eating 80% of their daily intake simply because it is easier to starve all day and binge eat at night, there is a 100% chance they will not comply long term to the plan. Creating an effective meal plan is about compliance.

  1. Macro Nutrient Breakdown and Distribution

The next step is the breakdown of your calories and how you distribute them throughout the day. Total calories is broken down into three macro nutrients: fat, carbs, and protein. At this point you must choose the type of meal plan you would like to use: high carb, carb cycling, high fat, intermittent fasting, and the list goes on.

Using your calories as 100%, convert each of the three macro nutrients into percentages that add up to 100.

Here are some general guidelines for a few common protocols:


Fat: 28%

Carb: 36%

Prot: 36%

High Carb:

Fat: 22%

Carb: 43%

Prot: 35%

High Fat

Fat: 50%

Carb: 10%

Prot: 40%

Once you’ve individualized your macro nutrient distribution and have your percentages, the next step is to convert them into grams. Take your total caloric intake and multiply it by the decimal form of the chosen percentage. This will give you the amount of calories of the chosen macro nutrient. Finally, divide that number by the amount of calories per gram:  4 for carbohydrates and protein, and 9 for fat.

For the sake of examples, we will use 2500kcal as the daily intake for the three examples I outlined above.


Fat: 77g

Carb: 225g

Prot: 225g

High Carb:

Fat: 61g

Carb: 268g

Prot: 218g

High Fat:

Fat: 138g

Carb: 63g

Prot: 250g

Now that you have daily totals you can begin tracking your intake. While there are many ways to go about doing this, I’m going to share with you what has worked best for my athletes and myself.

Create a meal database. This will give you the opportunity to do less and less thinking in making and managing your own meals the longer you are compliant with your meal plan.

*Side note: Grams is an effective way to measure your ingredients because every food substance will have an unchanging mass for the most part. If you are using cups or spoons to measure, you are in fact measuring volume, which can change under certain conditions.

As you begin creating meals that both fit your macros and you enjoy, keep track of them on your phone, laptop, and/or notebook in a database. You can use google sheets, microsoft excel…really whatever goes. The goal is just to make an easy reference book of meals that you can turn to.

Distribution can be as simple as dividing your daily totals by four to have four evenly based meals throughout the day. You may also track what you eat in accordance to your natural appetite using modern day apps. This is an okay method although it has some inaccuracies and mathematical issues, but it is a reliable measure of intake if you are consistent.

The important concept to understand here is eating for compliance. You will not adhere to a meal plan if you're eating 80% of your calories at night so you can binge eat cake and pizza. This will not only ruin your energy levels and appetite/satiety axis, but it can have lasting effects on your metabolism as well.

  • Peri Workout Nutrition

Outside of extreme cases, the goals of most meal plans involve some sort of physiological change related to exercise adaptation. Any sort of moderate to high intensity exercise, especially resistance training, gives major opportunity for a proper nutrition plan to synergistically work together and give you even better results.

There is an incredible amount of research to prove this, especially in diseased populations. That being understood, there is a lot to be said regarding nutrient timing in relation to exercise, this is coined peri-workout nutrition.

We can split peri workout nutrition into pre-intra-post in relation to exercise. The main variable in this equation is carbs. I will take you through my peri-workout training shake protocol, and give you some insight on the programming aspect of it.

If you are interested in learning more about the protocol itself, click here.

Pre Training:

This should be a bolus of fast digesting carbs with a small amount of protein and minimal fat. The goal is to raise insulin levels to facilitate glucose into the muscle cell. This should be anywhere from 20-30% of your daily carbohydrate intake and 10-15% of your protein. The distinguishing factor with the pre training approach is that food or liquid are an option, whereas for the other two, liquid is strongly recommended.

I often utilize a liquid pre workout option that has an even split of dextrose and highly branched cyclic dextrin combined with whey isolate. The 50/50 split provides more optimal glucose uptake into the cell without bogging down sympathetic drive.

I time this about 30-45 minutes pre workout with any stimulants I use coming 10-15 minutes later. I utilize isolate to save a bit of money primarily, but this is facilitated by the gap in time after drinking and before training (30-45 minutes) which allows for longer digestion of the only slightly more intact isolate chains.


Intra Training:

Intra training nutrition is one of the most highly experimented with modalities. Plenty of research has shown efficacy to intra training nutrition in improving recovery, and decreasing the dip in peak performance during a training session.

Intra training nutrition, however, has a very unique twist to it: you don’t want to spike insulin often or too high.

This is related to the autonomics of training and how they are almost inverse to the autonomics of nutrition. Simply put, insulin is a chief anabolic hormone, however, it is also a driver of the parasympathetic nervous system. All carbohydrates elicit some sort of insulin spike, the trick is picking the right balance.

Training must be a catabolic process facilitated by the sympathetic nervous system in order to illicit adaptation. The parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system work inversely, but one is always present. Ideally in training we want to minimize the parasympathetic system so we can further stress our bodies into adaptation.

Highly branched cyclic dextrin and hydrolyzed whey are my picks. While people have experimented with upwards of 70% of their daily intake for greater hypertrophy based adaptation, I tend to stick to 10-35% daily intake of carbs. As far as protein goes, keep the protein consumption low at roughly 5-10% of daily intake. Although it is not uncommon to see only BCAA’s used.

Post Training:

This is typically the best tasting shake, and should include a fast digesting carb that elicits a large insulin response. The parasympathetic system is what drives us to recover and adapt. After resistance training, muscle cells have a markable increase in insulin sensitivity, and this has even been been shown in diabetics. For that reason, I utilize a more balanced protein to carb ratio because utilizing them together can lead to greater glucose uptake (thanks to leucine and his friends), which drives recovery and makes you stronger for your next training session. 25-30% carbohydrates and 20-25% protein should suffice and refresh you after a tough session. I use dextrose and hydroylzed whey.

If we continued using the 2500kcal as our example my peri training shake combo would look like this


28g of dextrose, 30g of HBCD, 35g whey isolate

Fat: <2g (Incidentals due to protein)

Carbs: 56g (21%)

Prot: 28g (14%)


50g HBCD and 17g hydrolyzed whey

Fat: 0g

Carbs: 48g (18%)

Prot: 15g (7%)


67g dextrose powder and 48 hydrolyzed whey

Fat: 0g

Carbs: 67g (25%)

Prot: 41g (19%)

Something to Keep In Mind: Gut Health

Anatomy is typically what most people have memory lapses on, so here's a list of the organs of the gut: the gall bladder, large intestine, liver, oesophagus, pancreas, small intestine and stomach.


This is the system associated with digestion, nutrient absorption and expelling waste.  Basically all of the organs in which food related substances travel through (they're kind of a big deal)

The most important tie in for gut health in nutrition is that it's a direct window into the immune system. This is incredibly important because it can really help or hurt you. If you're sick, putting the proper food into your system can help mitigate symptoms and improve recovery time.

We see this profoundly in our recovery to training. In fact, you can test this yourself:

Scenario 1:

Next time you have big training session make sure to start your recovery with no liquids and nothing but taco bell.

Scenario 2:

After your next big session have a shake of hydrolyzed whey, dextrose, and some salt.  Follow that up with a large chicken breast cooked generously in coconut oil with some white rice 30-60 minutes later.

It's important to note that the immune system can also be nasty to bite back. Any food coming into the system that's not recognized properly will elicit an immune response causing inflammation. Over time this chronic, low level immune system activation can severely impair recovery and training readiness, as well as lead to a slew of cardiac and health based issues.

Luckily, it’s very simple to avoid. You just need to make sure you’re adequately, not under or overly, hydrated and eat foods that you can easily define.

If you have no idea how the food you're eating was made, its safe to say you should limit it. A very easy way to manage this is just prep a good majority of your own meals.

Also, you should not have excessive bloating or gastric distress from the foods you eat. Great foods to help this process are leafy green vegetables and fermented vegetables (saurkraut, kimchi, pickles).

For those who really want to optimize gut health, try not drinking water 10 minutes before or after a meal and limit it during. Water can dilute the enzymes in the stomach and change the PH to less than optimal for nutrient absorption.

The End

There is nothing that pains me more than seeing people work their ass off just to have a lack of knowledge limit their success. While nutrition can be scary, there is a beautifully creative side to it as well.

And if you make sure you're properly managing the above criteria, then you're well on your way to creating an effective nutrition plan.

Don’t ever let knowledge be your limiting factor.

For more information on how to pick the right meal plan for you, see another of my articles:

about the author

Andrew Triana “The Leucine Frog” is a promising young coach who has an intense passion for his clients success and writing. It is evident in his work that he is relentless in his pursuit of excellence. At 20 years old Andrew has produced National champions, World champions, Pro strongmen, and has helped many others reach their goals.  Follow him on Twitter (@AndrewTriana) and Instagram (@andtriana).

The Top 5 Mistakes Semi-Experienced Lifters Make that Limit their Gains

You’ve been training for a while now. You’ve noticed gains in strength, size, and body composition. So have your sex partners. But progress has come to a screeching halt. Personal records (PRs) are few and far between. Training is fun and all, but it seems to be going nowhere.

I’ve been there. Years back, I remember having read a few training articles on and thought I was the shit. Kept working out, pushing my limits, only to get hurt what seemed like every week.

Man, if I could have those days back…

Now that training other people is my career, it is my goal is to prevent you from making the same mistakes I made. Here are the five most common mistakes I see intermediate lifters make.

Mistake #1: They don’t have a structured plan

Everything you do in the gym should have a purpose. To find out what that purpose is, you first need to have an end goal in sight.

Set a goal

I used to bounce around from program to program, spinning my wheels and never making progress.

Find something you’re good at—powerlifting, strongman, intramural co-ed volleyball, whatever—and start heading down that path.

Focus on building strength instead of testing it

You’ve already realized your newbie gains. PRs will not come as easy anymore. They will be hard fought… and much more satisfying.

Your training needs to be planned over the long-term. The term we use in the fitness industry for this planning is “periodization”.

The idea is that you figure out when you’re going to compete, then you work backwards from there.

When your next competition is far away, your training should be focused on building up general qualities that transfer well to all sports, such as work capacity, aerobic power, and general strength. As you get closer to a competition, your training should become more and more specific and focused. Specificity is one of the guiding principles of smart, effective training, but spending all your time being specific with your training doesn’t give you a foundation upon which you can build. You have to do the things that you don’t like to do if you want to get better.

You have to go back to basics.

Track your progress

If you’re not making progress that you can track, then whatever you’re doing is not working.

Talk to a professional to figure out how to accomplish your goal

If you remember only one thing I say in this post, remember this: If you’re serious about your goal, you need a coach.

If you broke your leg, you would go to the doctor. Why would you not refer your training out to a professional who spends all of their time trying to get better at what they do?

Mistake #2: They never learn how to move well

Quality movement is absolutely essential for long-term gains.

Learn how to squat and bend

When squatting or bending under load (like when you’re deadlifting), keep your spine stable and load your legs by “pushing” through the floor instead of trying to pick the bar up. Avoid leading with your shoulders and arching your back.

If you need to relearn how to squat and bend, try a Kettlebell Deadlift.

Learn how to press

When pressing (like with a bench press), keep your shoulder blades stable and elbows tucked. If you don’t do this, it’s like you’re trying to shoot a cannon from a rowboat. A good exercise to try is the Dumbbell Floor Press.

Learn how to row

When rowing, always lead the movement with the shoulder blade. You should feel the muscles in your upper back working. A good exercise to try is the 3-point Dumbbell Row.

Learn how to be move on one leg

Single leg work isn’t fun, but it IS important. A good, albeit difficult exercise to try is the Single Leg Rufus Deadlift.

Do more reaching exercises

If you want to stay healthy, you’ve got to remember how to reach. This is especially important for those general phases of training we were discussing earlier.

When doing push ups, think about pushing your hands “through” the ground (all the way to China) before you finish your rep.

Mistake #3: They don’t get enough sleep

Training hard is only effective if you can recover from it. Restful sleep is essential to the recovery process.

Sleep quantity

Shoot for 7-9 hours each night.

Sleep quality

Avoid electronics before bed. Try to get on a schedule so that you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. If you have sleep apnea, go see a doctor.

*Here's a good post by our buddies over at Precision Nutrition if you want to read more about sleep.

Mistake #4: They forget about their nutrition

In addition to sleep, nutrition is also essential to your recovery. Quicker Recovery → Harder Training → More Progress.

Become conscious of what you eat and why you eat it

I like prescribing a 3-day food log. Record everything you ingest, when you ingest it, and what you were doing at the time of ingestion. This is all the info you need to determine the number one change you can make to optimize your food intake.

Fill your gas tank with premium, not crap

If you’re trying to make your body a high performance machine, you should fill it with premium fuel, not sludge.

*Further Reading:  Nutrition:  How to Pick a Plan that Fits Your Goals

Mistake #5: They do the wrong type of conditioning work

Improper conditioning is a pet peeve of mine. Coaches everywhere run their athletes into the ground, making them worse instead of better.

What are you training for?

There are three basic systems in the body that produce energy. Determine the ones that your sport uses and then train those systems.

Don’t fall into the trap of doing conditioning simply because it “feels hard”. Any coach can make you puke, but can he or she make you better?

*Further Reading:  How Do You Train For the Long Haul?  Develop an Aerobic Base

Summary of the Top 5 Mistakes Semi-Experienced Lifters Make

Mistake #1: They don’t have a structured plan

Mistake #2: They never learn how to move well

Mistake #3: They don’t get enough sleep

Mistake #4: They forget about their diet

Mistake #5: They do the wrong type of conditioning work

Don’t fall into the same traps that I and so many others have fallen into. My goal is to teach, so if you know someone who you think would benefit from this, please forward it to them.

P.S. I made a whole 16-week program that is great for these intermediate lifters who need some guidance. You can even get the ebook, presentation, and first month of the program totally free of charge.

about the author

Lance Goyke, CSCS, is a Nerd Extraordinaire and secret admirer of lesbians everywhere whose expertise focuses on the human body. His clientele ranges from other trainers to kids to house moms to fighters to baseballers to anyone who needs to be taught how to exercise. Go invade his home base at

Enjoying the Holidays: 3 Must Try Thanksgiving Recipes

Today's guest post comes a good friend of mine Kelsie Ross.  Kelsie is a working professional, figure competitor, and one of the best cooks I know.  I can't wait to give these recipes a try, and hopefully you can't either.  Enjoy!

HOLIDAYS!!! The most glorious time of year – fun, family, friends and FOOD!

If you’re like me, this time of year brings so many great warm and fuzzy feelings and also a little anxiety. When I first started my healthy lifestyle, I never knew how to approach the holidays. Do I throw my hands up and say “YOLO,” or do I stick to the plan and avoid all the foods that bring so many great memories and food coma feels to my heart.

The answer – neither. The beautiful thing about our bodies is if we treat them right 90% of the time, the other 10% we can indulge a little. Am I giving you license to eat the entire pumpkin pie? No, but I am saying a slice won’t hurt!

Growing up, Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. My extended family lives in Georgia, so it was always a time for the New England Ross clan to get together and reconnect from the craziness that is our lives; ham for Haley, macaroni pie for Bethany, green bean casserole for Dad, pumpkin pie for Mom and stuffing for me.

We all have something about the traditional meal that makes us look forward to getting together and chowing down. Throughout the years we’ve all become a little more conscious of our decisions, and have found ways to make our favorite dishes healthier without sacrificing the taste. For my family, Thanksgiving is a full day affair. Big breakfast in our PJ’s, Disney movies and football all throughout the day, playing with the dogs in the yard and then we all chip in to get dinner ready.

Below you’ll find three of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes that you can use to bring a warm feel to your home this season without the guilt!

Butternut Squash Protein Pancakes

TRUST ME – One of my old coaches taught me to substitute flours in pancakes for either butternut squash or sweet potato and it completely changed my breakfast making abilities (thanks Elle!). Try it! It doesn’t give the pancakes an overwhelming flavor and keeps them nice and moist. I promise it’s worth it. Macros will depend on the type of protein powder you use. I use a 100% whey isolate protein powder in this recipe.

Serves 1 – includes NO toppings; 266 calories; 1.6g fat, 38.9 protein; 26.8 carbs

125g Roasted/boiled butternut squash

½ cup liquid egg whites

2 tbsp oat flour

1 scoop vanilla or cinnamon protein powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp baking powder

Sprinkle of salt

2 tbsp of almond milk (Only if needed! Mix the batter first)

Mix all ingredients in a food processor or mini blender. If you don’t have a food processor, I recommend you boil your butternut squash so you can easily mash it then whisk in the other ingredients.

Spray a medium skillet with coconut oil or pam and warm over medium heat. Make as many pancakes as you’d like – big, small, Mickey shaped, one gigantic pancake pie. Add any additional toppings (I recommend raspberries or mini chocolate chips) and wait for them to start to bubble before you flip them. Enjoy!

Try your favorite nut butter between pancake layers – you won’t be sorry. 

Sweet Potato Pumpkin Biscuits

I created this recipe based off of PaleOMG savory biscuit version (which I HIGHLY recommend as well).

Serves 6; 108 calories; 5g fat; 4g protein; 9g carbs

1 ½ cup mashed sweet potato (Roast whole potatoes in the oven at 425 for 45-60 minutes or until you can easily run a knife into the center. Make sure you poke holes into the side of the potato before roasting.)

½ cup pumpkin puree

4 tbsp coconut flour

3 eggs

1 tbsp coconut oil melted

2 tbsp stevia/xylitol

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp pumpkin spice

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/8 tsp salt

Preheat your oven to 375

Mix dry ingredients in one bowl and wet in another. Slowly combine them until you begin to get a doughy consistency.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper and drop 1/3 cup of the mixture onto the pan.

Bake for 22-27 minutes and let them rest (very important as there isn’t much flour to bind these).

Smother in butter, gravy, mashed potatoes or whatever makes your heart happiest.

Note: Store these in the refrigerator if there are leftovers. They’ll keep longer!

Rosemary Roasted Vegetable Medley

Say that five times fast! A lot of people underestimate the delicious simplicity that vegetables can bring to Thanksgiving. Hearty vegetables prepared in the right way can completely transform a meal. Not to mention mixing in cruciferous vegetables that are high in fiber can really help you digest all of that pie I mentioned earlier.

Serves 4; 151 calories; 5.1g fat; 5.5g protein; 23.3g carbs

5 red potatoes (you can substitute any potato of your choice)

1 bunch of brussel sprouts (the ones I get come in a pre-cleaned bag; but shoot for about 2 cups once they are cleaned and halved)

3 large carrots

2 medium zuchinni

1-2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil

2 minced cloves of garlic

3-4 sprigs of fresh rosemary

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 375 and line two baking sheets with aluminum foil.

Dice your potatoes, half your brussel sprouts, slice your carrots and zucchini on an angle.

Put potatoes and carrots in one bowl and brussel sprouts and zucchini in another. In each bowl add ½-1 tbsp. of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and one minced garlic clove.

Pull the rosemary needles off the sprig onto a cutting board and run your knife through them to really open the flavor. Add half to each bowl and toss the vegetables.

Put each bowl of vegetables on separate baking sheets. Bake for 15-20 minutes. The potatoes and carrots may need a little longer to cook then the zucchini and brussel sprouts depending on how large they are. Bake to the consistency that you and your family like! Ross clan goes real crispy on the brussel sprouts and zucchini – if you’ve never had a crispy brussel sprout leaf you are missing out.

Toss all the vegetables in a dish and sprinkle a few extra rosemary springs over the top to make it pretty. I personally also like to drizzle flavored balsamic vinegar over these as well to give them a little extra something. My favorite is apricot balsamic!

Happy holidays!

Header photo credit

Nutrition: How To Pick A Plan That Fits Your Goals

Everyone understands the importance of proper nutrition and how it can benefit your body composition as well as your overall health. However I find a lot of people drowning in the vastness of nutrition and proper diet.

There is an overwhelming amount of research and methodologies that are all correct and valid, but the application to the individual is poor.

As opposed to blaming research, I find the biggest obstacle in people reaching their nutrition goals is often the misuse of the method they are utilizing.  They've found some new diet or trend, and then begin implementing it without having a true understanding for how to manage it.

Far to often I see elite collegiate athletes eating no carbs, and then failing to compensate for the complete loss of a macronutrient by eating enough fat and protein. Low carbohydrate diets have been shown to improve body composition, decrease visceral fat and optimize insulin health, but it's important to note that low carbohydrate does not have to mean low calorie.

Low calorie for an elite athlete means lower energy levels and decreased performance. This is only one example, but represents a major issue that impairs many from reaching their goals.

To prevent this, as an individual, you must look at yourself and your goals objectively, then pick the nutrition plan to fit those goals. This is where things can get tricky.

Looking into details like:

What energy system do you primarily train in?

What type of volume will you be utilizing?

How long do you have to recover?

Suddenly the thousands of good ideas and nutrition fads seem to fade.

To simplify some of these questions for you, I have come up with 3 of the most common types of people I work with and the type of meal plan I would utilize with them:

Elite Collegiate Athlete

The elite collegiate athlete is going to be my model for high volume activity. They have all of the stresses and constraints normal college students have with classes and work load, and then they expend extremely high levels of energy in their training.

This high stress routine could easily occupy 6 days of the week and is incredibly taxing on all of the systems of the body.

Such high volume and stress demands a caloric surplus, and at the very least a moderate intake of carbohydrates...if not high.

This need for carbohydrates comes from looking at the autonomics of this lifestyle. So much stress imposed on the body causes levels of glucocorticoids and other sympathetic related hormones to be elevated throughout the day, and out of their natural rhythm.

Not only can that lead to a plethora of diseases, but it can put a severe damper on performance--especially in the area of arousal. Carbohydrate consumption can help combat some of the negative effects related to these excessive stress levels.

In addition, properly timing carbohydrates around training can help any athlete expect to see far improved energy levels and recovery.

The Average Joe

The average joe is the modality I will use for the general population of regularly active people. They work full time five days a week and engage in some sort of resistance or aerobic based training three to five times a week.

This is a great group of people to work with because there are so many potential options for a meal plans.  It really allows lifestyle and personal choice to take some control, which we rarely find in the elite athletes.

This person can choose something as simple as evenly divided meals throughout the day or get as complex as an intermittent carbohydrate cycling and fasting approach, and everything in between. The main parameter for this group will be total caloric intake.

Hybrid Athlete

The hybrid athlete is a group of people with gobs of potential.

Work occupies the majority of their day and can prove to be stressful, but they also tend to crush training sessions at the bookends of the day.  They have a more than fit attitude, but have to fit their performance and physique goals within the confines of their professional schedules.

This allows for plenty of effective methods of manipulating the placement of their bulk carbohydrate and calorie consumption. Depending on the time they hit the gym, a fasting-loading protocol could be very effective at improving body composition while improving performance.

Here is an example meal plan for this population with the following attributes:

Looking to increase fat free mass

Train in the morning before work

Vigorous resistance training with some type of conditioning work mixed in

Pre Training Shake

1.5 servings BCAA’s, 2 cups of black coffee

Protein (g)0

Carbs (g)0

Fat (g)0

Intra Training Shake1 serving BCAA’s with 1 serving liquid carbs

Protein (g)0

Carbs (g)40

Fat (g)0

Post Workout Shake1.5 servings of hydrolyzed protein, 2 scoops liquid carbs

Protein (g)40

Carbs (g)80

Fat (g)0

Meal 1- 9-10am4 hardboiled eggs, 4oz of chicken breast, 1oz of cheese

Protein (g)56

Carbs (g)10

Fat (g)35

Meal 2- 12-1pm6oz of 88/12 beef, 45g of uncooked rice, 1 serving greens

Protein (g)43

Carbs (g)35

Fat (g)17

Meal 3- 5-7pm6oz turkey burger with 1oz cheese and 1 baked potato

Protein (g)43

Carbs (g)35

Fat (g)17

Meal 4- 7:30 PM8oz chicken breast, 6 slices of bacon, 84g of uncooked rice, 1 serving greens, 1oz cheese

Protein (g)56

Carbs (g)62

Fat (g)35

Daily Totals

Protein (g)238

Carbs (g)262

Fat (g)104


The beautiful, and confusing, thing about nutrition is there are hundreds of options, and with proper consideration and compliance to the plan, they all work.

Objectifying your nutrition and performance goals, and then using that info to pick a nutrition plan, is the key to actually reaching them. Whatever your nutrition goal may be, question yourself, pick a plan and stick to it.

*Note from James:  For more on nutrition I'd recommend checking out our free Webinar.

I know this article had a lot of info in it, so feel free to hit me up below with questions you have about the article or the sample meal plan.

about the author


Andrew Triana “The Leucine Frog” is a promising young coach who has an intense passion for his clients success and writing. It is evident in his work that he is relentless in his pursuit of excellence. At 20 years old Andrew has produced National champions, World champions, Pro strongmen, and has helped many others reach their goals.  Follow him on Twitter (@AndrewTriana) and Instagram (@andtriana).

Building a Kitchen for Nutrition Success: 5 Must Have Appliances


Let me ask you a question. You’re looking to build a house, and already have the design prepared.  It’s going to be a beautiful house--the design is spotless, and it’ll make the house of your dreams.

You are, unsurprisingly, excited to get started, but when you show up to start construction on day 1 you realize you have no materials, tools etc. etc.

Can you build the house?

Unless you have Jedi mind tricks (and if you do please teach me), the house ins’t going to be built.

You can think of a diet in the same way.  People get so excited to try a new “style” of eating because it’ll help them achieve the body and life they’ve always wanted, but without the right tools you’re fighting a losing battle.  You have to set yourself up for success, and that starts in the kitchen.

Having a well stocked kitchen is a key component to a successful diet because it allows you to put your plan to work.

Below are 5 gadgets, tools, or really whatever you want to call them, that I see as being a must have for the health conscious eater.

Nutri Bullet


I don’t know about you, but trying to get in full meals every 2-3 hours isn’t only expensive, it’s a major pain in the ass.  In particular, I have a hard time getting in enough good vegetables and fruit just because I don’t have the time to be cooking side dishes for 5 meals.  For that reason, having the ability to make smoothies or supershakes in a snap is a must, and the Nutri Bullet is my go to.

I’ve always been a blender person, but my mom (she’s a sweetheart) got me one of these this past Christmas and the blender has now been packed away for storage.

This little guy is was way more convenient, and makes it super easy to make shakes on the go.  Just pile the ingredients in the cup, mix in a little liquid of your choice (almond milk is always a great option), press down and hold for about 15-20 seconds, and you’re good to go.  Pop the container off the “blender,” screw on a to go cap, and you have a meal or great side item at  your finger tips.

Here’s my usual recipe (it serves as my “side” item for my meal at 4 pm):

2-3 enormous handfuls of spinach

1/2 cup blueberries

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup organic whole milk (use water to get desired consistency)

9 almonds

1 teaspoon of coconut oil

I personally don’t mind the taste, but this may be a little bland for most.  Feel free to throw in some stevia, honey or other natural sweetener if you’d like.  Also, if this is going to serve as a full meal I’d add two scoops of a good protein powder.  I personally like this and this on the protein front.

All in all, this is probably my number 1 recommendation for kitchen appliances because it makes it too easy for people to get in quality vegetables and fruit throughout the day.

EatSmart Kitchen Scale


Being able to weigh your food (in particular your meat) is really important, especially if you’re looking to gain weight or lose weight.  More than anything, it gives me piece of mind to know I’m getting in exactly what I need at each meal.

When I guess, I often end up worrying about quantity and if I’m getting enough of x, y or z, so knowing for sure helps put my mind to ease.

Furthermore, many people have a bad feel for what is what when it comes to how much food they eat.  Ask anybody trying to gain weight and their first response will always be:  “Dude, you don’t understand.  I eat soooo much food.”  Well usually that isn’t the case at all.  They feel like they’re eating a lot of food, but in reality their macro intakes are way off.

For this reason, I usually recommend the EatSmart Kitchen Scale.  It makes measuring food a quick and painless process.  Not only that it’s pretty cheap at $20 and easy to clean.

Ultimately, the scale doesn’t lie and it’s a great option for people with more serious nutrition and/or body recomposition goals.

Pyrex Glass Tupperware


For the longest time I used plastic tupperware, and felt like I was giving myself cancer whenever I had to heat up food in it.

Well no more.  I bought a set of Pyrex Glass Tupperware a few weeks back and absolutely love it.

Besides the whole cancer piece, I use tupperware for pre-making all my meals.  If you’ve read any of my stuff, you’ll know I like to do all my cooking on one or two days of the week (usually Sunday and Thursday), and then transfer all that food into meal ready tupperware containers.

I personally like doing it that way because I’m not a fan of cooking or putting together anything in the morning or when I get home from work.  I’d much rather just open the fridge and pull out a ready made meal.

Crock Pot


Okay…I may have lied earlier when I said the Nutri Bullet was my number 1 appliance recommendation.  In all honesty, we’re probably looking at a dead tie for first between that and the Crock Pot.

To be blunt, the Crock Pot  is a life saver.  It helps me make meals usually once a week, and makes my life way easier.  I’ll buy a big roast (it does a great job with pulled pork also), throw in a bunch of veggies and potatoes, put the timer on 10 hours, go to bed, and then wake up with enough food for 3 days (#win).

Does it get any better than that?  I dare to say it doesn’t.

Food Processor


I’m all about trying to save time in the kitchen, and the Food Processor helps make that happen.

Whether it’s cutting up veggies, preparing dips, or making pesto, it does a good job of expediting the process.

Also, another major bonus is that with a good food processor you can make your own almond meal.  Not only does this save you a lot of money (buying almonds in bulk is way cheaper than buying almond meal), it gives you a great substitute for flower in a bunch of recipes.

For example, here’s one of my all time favorite pancake recipes:

Mash up 1 banana in a bowl

Add two eggs, 1/2 cup of almond meal, 1/2 cup of blueberries (or other berry of choice), a little cinnamon and stir until you get a good consistency.

Coat a griddle in a little coconut oil, and then cook away.

I’d also recommend cooking three eggs over easy to place on top of the pancakes.  It’s really delicious when they soak up the yoke.

What other kitchen essentials aren't on the list?  Let us know in the comments below.

Gaining Weight: 5 Nutrition Strategies to Help You Bulk Up

So, you wanna get big huh? Well step in line with the millions of athletes around the world who are trying to bulk up also.

Luckily, throwing on some quality lean mass comes down to one fairly simple formula:  energy in vs. energy out.

Granted, gaining weight is more complex than that, but if you bring in more energy (calories) than you’re burning it's highly likely that you'll gain weight.

As opposed to getting into the nitty gritty of counting calories (which I hate doing by the way), I’d like to give you 5 simple strategies that you can start implementing today in your quest for bulk.

Constantly measure and only change one thing at a time

This is more of a mindset than anything, but really important nonetheless.

I find it interesting when I talk to people who have serious body recomposition goals, such as putting on 15 lbs and cutting 4% body fat at the same time, who don’t keep track or measure what they’re doing.

How do you expect to make gains if you don’t know what’s helping or hurting your progress.

And no, I’m not talking about counting calories.  There are simpler methods than that.  For example, in our free ebook Winning the Nutrition Battle we walk you through how to craft meals based on your body types and goals using nothing but your hands

Using that as our guide, we now have a baseline from which to start measuring progress.

Thus, from week to week (on the same day) you should weigh yourself to see what kind of progress you’re making.  Generally speaking, I usually recommend shooting for 1 pound a week for those looking to gain weight.

If you step on the scale and notice you’re losing weight, then reassess what you’re doing and change ONE THING about your routine.  It could be adding more dense carbohydrates with each meal, bumping up protein intake, or adjusting your workout routine, really whatever goes.  Just pick one thing, change it and then monitor your progress over the weeks to come.

If you begin to make progress, then stick with what you’re doing and ride it out as long as you can.  Once progress starts slowing down, then repeat the same procedure as before.

Ultimately, this is how progress is made.  You have a baseline plan that serves as your starting point.  You then measure progress at realistic intervals (one to two week spans) and make adjustments as you see fit.

Drink a shake while you workout

A great way to counteract the large number of calories you’ll burn when you lift is to drink a shake as you’re lifting.

This shake should consist primarily of denser carbohydrates (because your body tends to “burn” glucose in intense bouts of exercise) and protein (because your body will be in need of increased amino acid availability) in something like a 2:1 (carb:protein) ratio.

Here’s an example of what that shake might look like:

2 servings (just pour two 11.1 ounce containers into a blender bottle) of Coconut Water mixed with 1 serving of Whey Isolate Chocolate.  This comes out to 30 grams of carbohydrates and 21 grams of protein.  It’s not exactly a 2:1 ratio, but it’ll get the job done.

Have a glass of chocolate milk at every meal

As I mentioned above, weight gain comes down to how much energy you bring in vs. how much energy you burn.

So if you want to gain weight you need to be in a positive energy balance as often as possible.

One easy way to boost calorie intake to maintain a positive energy balance is to have a glass (1 cup worth) of chocolate milk at every meal.

Assuming you’re eating 5 times a day, this will add somewhere in the vicinity of 1000 calories to your daily intake.

Do all your cooking on Sunday

Arguably the hardest part of gaining weight is finding time to cook all the food you need to be eating.  One thing I implemented that works well is to treat Sunday (you can use whatever day you like) as my cooking day.  I plan out whatever meals I’m going to eat that week, go to the grocery store, and then cook everything in about 2 hours.  It’s way easier to grab something already made out of the fridge after a long day than having to come home and cook.

Eat faster

If you saw my post on losing weight, you’ll remember I talked about eating slower to allow time for your satiety hormones to kick in.  Well if you’re looking to gain weight you should be taking the opposite approach.  Eat fast and eat a lot before your body realizes it’s full.

That’s about all for today, but post any questions or comments you have below.

Three Fat Loss Tricks to Help You Cut Back

Here are three great but often overlooked tricks to help you lose weight and get ready for beach season.  Yes, I know beach season is still several months away, but I’m excited nonetheless. Especially since I’m in Massachusetts freezing my ass off.

Eat Slower

Time for some good old fashion self evaluation:  Are you a fast eater?  Do you consistently finish your meal before everyone else?  How long does a typical meal take you to finish?

Seeing as it’s always difficult to evaluate yourself, go ahead and write down your own answer and then ask three friends to answer also.

I’ll go first to avoid the awkward silence:  yes.  I am 100% a fast eater.  I know it, my friends know it, and I’m pretty sure anybody I’ve shared a meal with knows this as well.  I, however, am not trying to lose weight so I’m not going to worry about it.

For those of you trying to lose weight, on the other  hand, slowing down makes a lot of sense.

Here’s why:  it takes about 20 minutes for your satiety (I’m full and don’t want to eat anymore) mechanisms to kick in.  Thus, if you’re anything like me and tend to blow through food, you’re susceptible to overeating because your brain won’t tell you stop until it’s too late.

Which leads me to my next point:  slowing down gives you a much better gauge of fullness.  You’ll be way more in tune with your body and be able to adequately respond to satiety cues as they occur.  Simply put, you’ll end up eating less, which means you’re taking in less calories, which means there is a better chance you’ll be in an energy debt (what you want for weight loss).

“But James, how long should it take me to eat?”

What a great question.  It’s almost as if I wrote that in myself to lead me to my next point.

A great goal to shoot for is 15-20 minutes per meal.  Calm  down, calm down I know that seems like a really long time, but you can do it.  Just incrementally add in 1 minute here, and one minute there, and before you know it you’ll be there.  I’d like to emphasize that point again:  incremental change.  Don’t try and do it all at once.  The success rate for building Rome in a day is pretty low.  Focus on making small changes every day and you’ll be amazed at how much you can accomplish in a few weeks.

Stop at 80%

Now that you’re eating slower, I want you to commence eating when you’re 80% full.

Not 100%, but 80%.

And no, this isn’t an exact science.  It’s like in high school when my football coach would tell us to run a sprint at 87% effort.  Did I know what 87% effort was?  Absolutely not.  I just felt it out, and you’re going to have to do the same.

Like in the above example, this will help cut back on calories and induce an energy deficit (aka weight loss).

To help you get a better feel for this, I’d suggest using the following “how you should feel timeline.”  If you eat the proper amount of food at each meal, your hunger response time should follow this progression.

0 hours after eating:  you’re probably still a little hungry, but remember it takes time for your satiety mechanisms to kick in.

1 hour after eating:  you should feel satisfied with no desire to eat another meal.

2 hours after eating:  you’ll start feeling a little hungry, but not to the point where you have to eat.

3 hours after eating:  it’s time to eat!  On a scale from 1-10 (10 being I could eat a cow) you should be in the 7-8 range.

4 hours after eating:  you’re running people over in an attempt to get to the kitchen.

As you can see, if you manage calorie intake properly you should be eating every 2.5 to 3 hours.  If that’s not the case, then you’re either eating too much or too little.  Experiment and find what works best for you.

You Have to Earn Higher Carbohydrate Meals

Want to eat something other than fruits and vegetables?  Well you’ve gotta exercise first to earn the right to.

You’re body handles more dense, sugary carbohydrates (potatoes, grains etc. etc.) in a much different fashion if you eat them following a workout.

Exercise basically preps your body for the increase in blood glucose levels, so by only eating these types of carbs after a workout you ensure your body is using them to either replace lost glycogen stores or “burning” them to generate energy.  When we eat these types of carbohydrates at other points throughout the day, our body doesn’t respond well to the uptick in blood glucose levels and most will be shipped off for storage (weight gain).

Closing thoughts

In my opinion, most diets fail because people try to do too much too fast.  Making change is HARD, so don’t get down on yourself when things get a little difficult.

Set realistic expectations for yourself and don’t try to do too much at once.  Like I said earlier, make incremental change.  Treat every day or week as opportunity to improve on something small, and within no time you’ve made big change.


Today we have an awesome guest post from Ryan Andrews over at Precision Nutrition.  For starters, I consider myself lucky to be able to call Ryan a friend, but he's also one of the smartest people I know when it comes to nutrition and helping people form life changing habits.  Enjoy the article!

“While we are free to choose our actions, we are not free to choose the consequences of our actions.”

-Stephen R. Covey

Starting a diet feels good. It feels productive. Dieting makes me feel like I give a crap about my nutrition. I’ve started a new diet many times and my motivation was always the same. It was about bettering myself, losing body fat, gaining muscle, getting healthier, and taking ownership of my life. Many of us venture into the land of dieting at some point in our lives. More than 50 percent of young adults report that they diet (1), and 20 to 35 percent of adults in the U.S. are likely on a diet right now (2).

Unfortunately, with dieting comes “dieting blinders.” We focus on girths, skinfolds, pictures, and the scale….and not much else. Dieting can become quite self-centered.

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that this self-centered approach to nutrition can lead us to forget the big picture. We begin to follow a diet plan; meanwhile, we forget about any obligations we have as people.

Here are three unintended consequences I’ve observed with dieting:

Getting fatter in the long-term

The quickest way to gain 25 pounds is to lose 20.

Americans are chronic undereaters. We cut back. We eliminate. We deprive. We count. Over and over until…we don’t. Hunger hormones spill into the bloodstream and we eat, and eat, and eat. This overeating can last for months, or even years. At some point frustration might kick in and we get back on a diet. But by this time, we’ve already gained substantial body fat and greatly compromised our health. Plus, our body now clings to fat stores before the next famine.

Diets are about rules. And rules are extremely useful when there would otherwise be chaos. A room full of kindergarteners with no rules? Chaos. A person who consistently eats for reasons other than hunger? Chaos. We often turn to dieting rules when we don’t trust our eating intuition. The problem here is that once we deviate from the dieting rules (as we all do), we have nothing left to guide us. Should I eat after 8pm? I don’t know – it depends on if I’m hungry or not and what else was going on in my life that day. A diet rule can’t dictate that.

If I told you that starting tomorrow you could no longer have ice cream, what would you do tonight? That’s what I thought. If you want to trigger a binge on food X, deprive yourself of food X. And this is what diets set people up to do.

The more we diet, the fatter we get (3-5).


I used to think that dieting was the opposite of gluttony. I’ve come to realize it’s not.

Just as someone can be sad about the right thing but express it in the wrong way, people can diet in a way that is gluttonous. We exclude beans while over-consuming meat. We exclude fruits while over-consuming artificial sweeteners. We restrict during the week while over-consuming on the weekends.

Diets are built upon immoderation. Immoderate restrictions. Immoderate food choices. Immoderate expectations. Going on a diet is not a viable solution to the deep-rooted problem of immoderation.

Gluttony (and thus dieting) often distances us from others (friends, family, career goals, spiritual goals, and so forth). And this can undermine our deeper values.

So, if you think being on a diet automatically qualifies you as non-gluttonous, think again.

Environmental demolition

Many diets emphasize protein. I’m a big fan of protein. And protein is essential for us to live. Protein-dense foods might even help with satiety and promote a healthy body composition.

All good, right?

Well, when most Americans want to eat protein, they eat meat. And this is reflected in our intake patterns. Annual consumption of meat per person in the U.S. is about 171 pounds. Compare this to beans, another protein-dense food, of which Americans consume about 7.5 pounds per person annually.

While meat is a protein-dense food, it also tends to come with a higher cost of production.

About 32 billion (that’s billion with a “b”) animals were killed for food in the U.S. in 2011 (6). And for animals to grow, they need to eat. In the U.S., nearly 160 million tons of cereals, legumes, and vegetable protein are fed to livestock to produce just 28 million tons of animal protein in the form of meat (6).

Putting one pound of meat on the table requires nearly 1,800 gallons of water. Compare this to one pound of potatoes requiring 119 gallons, one pound of barley requiring 198 gallons, and one pound of beans requiring 216 gallons (8).

Meat protein is often a poor return on investment. And with 7 billion people on the planet (and counting), building a diet around meat doesn’t appear to be a sustainable option.

Five steps to combat the unintended consequences of dieting

We can all do whatever we want.  But there’s no such thing as consumption without consequence.

We all know that eating healthful food is a good idea, but too often we forget why. It’s not just about us. It’s not just about a tight waistline. It’s about our place in the world and the role we need to fulfill. Dietary repercussions extend far beyond the bathroom scale. The diet we choose to sustain us must also sustain the planet.

Here are five steps to combat the unintended consequences of dieting:

1. Listen to (and trust) body cues. Food won’t solve problems, unless the problem is hunger.

2. Get help from a coach (like Precision Nutrition’s Coaching Programs). Bouncing ideas off of someone goes a long way to sane eating. When we rely on our internal dialogue to make decisions, things can get a bit kooky. Utilize a coach to figure out what nutrition approach works for you.

3. Focus on the big picture. Instead of spending time worried about losing a few pounds or thinner thighs, take your focus to the big picture. Go beyond superficial wants and instant gratification. Volunteer at a farm or help at a school. Ask yourself the following question: Are my food/drink habits dedicated to serving my immediate gratifications rather than serving my life mission and deeper values?

4. Avoid scale obsession. If it’s up, we get pissed at ourselves, diet, and inevitably binge. If it’s down, we justify food as a reward, feel pressure to lose more weight, and inevitably binge. Instead of using the scale, think about your actions each day. Are you living the life of a lean and healthy person?

5. Be reasonable. Three reasonable meals per day go a long way towards a leaner and healthier body.

About the author

Ryan D. Andrews is a registered dietitian, strength and conditioning specialist and registered yoga teacher who completed his education in exercise and nutrition at the University of Northern Colorado, Kent State University, and Johns Hopkins Medicine. He’s written hundreds of articles on nutrition, exercise, and health, authored Drop The Fat Act & Live Lean, and coauthored The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition Certification Manual. Ryan is currently a coach with Precision Nutrition, offering life-changing, research-driven nutrition coaching for everyone.


1. Goldschmidt AB, et al. Which diets are at risk for the onset of binge-eating? A prospective study of adolescents and young adults. J Adolesc Health 2012;51:86-92.

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3. Mann, T. Medicare’s search for effective obesity treatments: Diets are not the answer. Am Psychologist 2007;62:220-233.

4. Field AE et al. Relation Between Dieting and Weight Change Among Preadolescents and Adolescents. Pediatrics 2003;112:900-906

5. Neumark-Sztainer D. et al. Obesity, disordered eating and eating disorders in a longitudinal study of adolescents: how do dieters fare five years later? J Am Diet Assoc 2006;106:559-568.