Manipulating Your Time Of Consumption

The truth of the matter is that most “named” diets work for the simple fact that they manipulate the way you eat by tricking you into eating less calories. There is no magic trick that Paleo, low carb, Adkins, or ketogenic diets have, it simply the fact that without many realizing it, they are tricked into eating less calories due to the foods recommended. Well today, I’ve got some “tricks” for you! When it comes to tricking ourselves into eating less calories, the foods chosen need to have at least one of the following two qualities, if not both:

  1. They are filling
  2. They are time consuming to eat

And in this article, we are going to focus on quality number 2, and that is they are time consuming to eat, specifically snacks. Stereotypically, Americans are snackers. And there are many reasons for snacking, but one of the most common and detrimental is boredom. We as humans do not like to be bored and want to be doing something at all times, even it is meaningless. At night, when the fun is over for the day and we want to “relax”, the fact is we still want to be occupied, but now with things we enjoy and make us feel good. So we turn to TV, movies, video games, and the internet, but for some reason sitting completely still is just too hard, so we accompany those entertainments with snacking. What I have for you below are my go to’s when it comes to snacking, and the requirements for the foods on this list are simple, and that is that they are “time consuming”. And by “time consuming”, I mean that they will take some time to eat, but they will also keep your calories in check at the same time. In my opinion, a late night snack foods “worth” is determined by a simple formula:

Calories divided by minutes taken to consume equals calories per minute

Kcal/Min=Kcal per Min

For example, the first item on the list is string cheese, my current personal favorite. 1 stick of string cheese is 80 calories, and on the short end, if eaten correctly, should take around 15 minutes to consume. So that would equate to 80/15=5.33 calories per minute. On the opposite end, we may choose to eat a bowl of Doritos, which let’s say totals 33 chips. It takes you the same 15 minutes to eat, but now we are looking at 420 calories, which in 15 minutes of consumption equates to 28 calories per minute, or 5 times the calories during the same time frame. Now I am not saying to go through this calculation every time you eat, but I wanted you to see this to get the point of “time consuming” foods.

With that knowledge, take a look at the foods below and see how these “time consuming” foods work for you.

String cheese

80 calories

Why: If you are diligent and patient in truly eating it as string cheese, pulling off super thin strings each time, it could take you upwards of 15-20 minutes to eat.

Pistachios, Shelled

102 calories in 30 nuts

Why: If you buy the shelled kind, each nut you eat you are going to have to pull off the shell. Between the time it takes and your fingers getting sore, by the time you are done you will be most likely ready to move on.

Pretzel Rods

35 calories per rod

Why: This is kind of a weird one, but instead of chomping down on them you suck on them instead, and 2-3 rods could easily last you 20-30 minutes in this manner.

Skinny Pop

155 Calories in 4 Cups

Why: Who doesn’t love to have a big bowl of popcorn during a movie!? Well with Skinny Pop, you can. Make sure to properly measure out 4 cups, and enjoy yourself to some snacking that feels like you are eating A LOT, but really are not.


80-100 Calories

Why: Don’t peel and don’t cut, eat as is. Depending on your speed, it will take anywhere between 5-10 minutes to get through an apple eating is.


80-100 Calories

Why: The peeling will be time consuming, along with an orange being a high satiety food as well.


Just Do It

When it comes to fitness and motivation, everyone struggles at times, even your personal trainer. If you think the only struggle with motivation will be when you first start out, you are unfortunately wrong. And that is the position I found myself in recently. Read on to see how I overcame these struggles and have succeeded.

Looking at my current situation, this has been the first time since I started exercising 10 years ago that I really was in a rut. I have had times where my motivation was lacking, but never to the point where I just didn’t want to work out and even skipped going to the gym entirely for one week. What got me to this point was my personal fitness goals getting derailed this year. My plan for the last 3 years was to progress in powerlifting to the point that this year I could qualify for USAPL Raw Nationals (the largest and most recognized/credible national powerlifting competition in the US) and compete there in October. Unfortunately, not just one, but two significant injuries have made me postpone that goal until further notice. With a badly strained rotator cuff in my right shoulder and prepatellar bursitis in my left knee, there was only a handful of things I could even do in the gym. If I wanted to work out, it meant I was doing back/bicep/tricep workouts 3-4 days a week along with my rehabilitation work. Usually in a situation like this I would then change my focus to more physique based training goals versus strength, but therein lies the final issue. I have a hiatal hernia that prevents me from dieting long term, so going through a cutting/weight loss phase was out of the picture as well! All of this piling together meant that when it came to exercise, other than health, I really did not have any goals to work towards. And for me, I have a severe lack of motivation without goals I can aspire for. Of course I want to be healthy, but the fact is I already am, so working out was just to maintain that health, not to work towards it. So to me exercise had now become a nuisance, something I had to do, and that wasn’t fun.

So what did I do?

For the first month my motivation was down in the dumps. As mentioned above, I even skipped a whole week of working out at one point. To get out of this, I can pinpoint 5 main things I did to get me back on track.

  1. Wrote up a detailed 4 week workout program so I actually had something planned out.
  2. Started going to the actual gym more versus lifting at home (I have a great home gym setup) because once I was at the gym there is nothing else distracting me. At home, I found that after about 20-30 minutes, it was way too easy to just cut the workout short and go upstairs and watch TV.
  3. If I did work out at home, I asked my wife to make sure she worked out with me those days to keep me accountable. If I knew she was working out, I knew I would too.
  4. I found some other things outside of my fitness goals to put my time into. I started writing more and also got back into racing remote controlled cars. Both of these things gave me something to occupy my time and brain to keep me sane.
  5. I just did it. Even with those things listed above, I still did not have the same motivation I usually have, but to me it wasn’t an option to quit. I want to compete at USAPL Raw Nationals, and sitting on my butt was not going to get me there. What was going to get me there was working hard at the things I could, and being diligent in my rehab work to get the issues I had fixed.

So what is the outcome?

Well it is still a work in progress, but 3 months post injury I am happy to say at least 2 of the 3 issues I have are significantly better. The shoulder is definitely not 100%, but I can now bench press full strength pain free. And per the advice from my previous coach Hani Jazaryli, I tried taking in some apple cider vinegar each morning for my hiatal hernia symptoms, and so far so good. I am on the lowest calories without discomfort that I have been on since being diagnosed with a hiatal hernia, so hopefully that trend continues. As for the knee, well that’s still been a pain in the butt, but have recently switched gears and am trying a different approach for it’s rehab, so we will see how that goes.

So what have I learned?

If I am looking at what I did to overcome these issues, steps 1 through 4 (from above) were all things I knew I had to do. Make a plan, go to an actual gym versus trying to workout at home, have someone to workout with to keep me accountable, and find some others things that make me happy. Those were all things I recommend on a consistent basis to my clients, tried and true, nothing new.

Number 5 though is where the learning experience came in. And it is not something that anyone else can teach or control, it is all up to you. When it comes down to it, if you want to achieve something, you just have to do it. Up until now, that hasn’t been a phrase I have used enough, but after going through this myself, I now know that it was the most important part of the entire process. Steps 1 through 4 helped, but even if I didn’t find those things, to reach my goals I just had to do it. Whether that is for powerlifting, weight loss, or general health, if you have goals that you want or need to attain, sometimes you just need to dig deep and push through. There is going to be tough times and that is why so many people fail. The ones who have reached their goals are the ones who went to the gym even when it wasn’t convenient and said no to some tasty food even though it may spark some criticism from friends. They decided even during the tough times when motivation was lacking, they were still going to do it. Nike had it right, and I think the lesson I have learned here is not only valuable for my fitness goals, but also professional and relationship goals as well. Just do it

Nutrition Is A Budget

Budgeting is no fun, so seeing that in the title probably wasn’t the most exciting thing you’ve seen today, but stick with me. The truth is, nutrition is very much like a budget, and if we can approach it with this mindset, “healthy” versus “bad” foods makes a lot more sense. We see a lot of contradicting information out there in regards to what is good and bad for you, but the fact is, in the right context and situation, no food is truly “bad”, it is just a matter of how we fit it in our budget.

So let’s talk about literal budgets for a second, as for most people, it will be fairly easy to relate to. If you make 1,000,000 a year, it’s fairly obvious you will be able to afford some luxury items others may not. You can fork out the money for a Ferrari, have a massive house, and be able to take vacations to Europe on the regular, yet still probably have plenty of money left over to invest and save. Sounds great, right!? But for most, that is just not realistic. The latest information I found showed that the average household income is currently around $51,000 a year, so that is where a stricter budget comes into play. It doesn’t mean we can’t have nice things and have fun, but we are going to a bit more frugal and picky on how we allocate our money. We have to figure out what we can afford, as any big money choice in one aspect of our life is going to greatly affect other areas. If we buy a house that is out of our price range, then not much is going to be left over to buy a nice car or take a vacation.

All of this directly applies to nutrition. We all have a budget, and that is our caloric maintenance level. What that means is the amount of calories we can eat, based on our current activity, that we will maintain the same weight. If we dip below that level into a deficit, we will lose weight, and if we go above into a surplus, we will gain weight, and we have to budget our calories accordingly. These numbers are going to be highly dependent on many factors such as age, gender, lean muscle mass, non-exercise activity, resting metabolic rate, and more. If we have a person who has a very fast metabolism, has been weight training for 10+ years 4 days a week, and is a 30 year old male, most likely they are going to have a higher “budget” than a sedentary 60 year old female who has never exercised.

So looking at how this applies to our food choice, if our current goals dictate that we should be consuming 3,500 calories a day, we have a large budget. If we have a couple slices of pizza, ice cream, or in general “bad” foods once in awhile, it’s not a big issue nor unhealthy, because we have plenty of room in our budget to fit that in. So for this person, pizza isn’t “bad”, it just needs to fit into their diet within moderation. Take for example a Digiorno pepperoni pizza, where 3 slices is 900 calories. In a 3,500 calorie diet, that still leaves this person with 2,600 calories left in their budget for the rest of the day, which is equivalent to 5 and ½ meals of 4.5 ounces of chicken, 1 cup of rice, and 1 cup of broccoli. This person is not going to have an issue fitting this pizza in. But what if you are trying to lose weight, and are currently eating 1,500 calories a day? Probably not, because that pizza now consumes 60% of your daily caloric goals, which leaves you with very little to eat for the rest of the day. They could just go for it, but the person with only a 1,500 calorie budget is going to run into two main issues:

  1. Significant hunger levels. If they use 60% of their dietary goals on  3 slices of pizza, the volume of food they get to consume that day is very little. They could have had 45 cups of broccoli for the same amount of calories, which is an unreasonable amount, but just using that example to prove a point. People have adherence issue with diets when hunger levels are high, so when the budget is low, we have to be stricter with our food choices.
  2. Pizza has terrible micronutrient (vitamins and minerals) density. When foods have low levels of micronutrients, they typically fall into the “bad” category, and in the example of the 1,500 calorie diet, that is very true. It is going to be near impossible for that person to get the micronutrients their body needs to function properly from only 600 calories of “healthy” foods. Whereas the person with the 3,500 calorie budget still has 2,600 calories worth to consume those same nutrients.

My hope was to possibly make a slight change to the way you look at food. I will never argue pizza and ice cream is good for you, but in the right context, its also not bad, we just have to evaluate our budget and eat within moderation. Even with the 1,500 diet, small deviations from “healthy” food can be made. 2 servings of Edy’s slow churned ice cream is around 220 calories, so if you are wanting to reward yourself occasionally, you can use moderation to still enjoy some tasty treats. You just have budget it out and look at the pros and cons just like you do with your finances.

Strength Progression Made Easy

One of the single biggest mistakes I see in the gym, and a significant reason why people benefit from having a Personal Trainer, is the lack of progression within their training program. And before going in more depth with why, first let me describe what the word “program” versus “workout” means. A workout could be described as singular, meaning it only entails that single training session at the gym, and this is where many people go wrong. For example, they have a great chest workout and continue to go through that workout over and over, which is better than nothing, but not optimal. A program instead would be described as plural, as it would entail a long term plan for improvement and should be ever changing. A program entails months upon months of workouts that lead to an overall improvement in your fitness, strength, flexibility, endurance, and health, depending on your goals and what you are trying to accomplish. A program is optimal as its foundation is built upon progression. Progression entails anything that is providing an increased stimulus over the previous training session, and that could come from a multitude of factors. Within resistance training, progression has some fairly obvious benefits when it comes to gaining strength, but many fail to realize the key benefits it also has with weight loss.

  1. The more muscle you have, the more calories you can burn. So by using progression, we can create muscle growth that will provide a stable and continuous increase in your metabolic rate.
  2. If you are progressing and consistently increasing the difficulty, you are most likely also increasing the amount of calories you are burning per training session. Lifting heavier weight and the increasing the degree of difficulty creates a much more intense workout that will translate into more calories burned.
  3. When we train with weights, we go through a process called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC. Without getting too detailed and scientific, the basis around EPOC is the fact that after a weight training workout, you continue to burn calories afterwards due to recovery needs. As we add in progression and the difficulty and intensity increases, the extent of the calories burned through EPOC will increase as well. So while you are sitting at home, you are continuing to burn calories above your normal metabolic rate, and who doesn’t want that!

So we need progression not just for increasing strength and muscle, but also for the numerous health and weight loss benefits it adds, but how do we make sure we are progressing properly? For someone just starting out with resistance training, many times progression comes from the exercise variation, as they are starting from a very basic point, and working their way up to more difficult variations. This type of progression is very individualized, so trying to go through how to progress in this manner is very difficult to write about, and where one on one sessions with a personal trainer can be of great value. As you reach a slightly higher fitness level where exercise variation is not as much a contributing factor, but still what I’d very much consider a beginner, we can now start to add in a simplified approach to progression. This will be slow, as there is a reason there are 2.5lb weight plates in the gym, and that is because we should use them! Your strength may increase at a fairly fast past when you first start, but beware of the temptation to just keeping adding more and more weight. Slow and steady will win the race here, and this can be for many reasons, but the main reason most beginners should stick to a very slow progression pace is due to injury risk. Even though our large, dominant muscles may be getting exponentially stronger, those small stabilizers still may be a bit weaker. We still may have some imbalances as well between sides of the body, causing form dysfunction due to favoring one side. So slow progression with correct form is the way to go. With that being said, let’s finally look at how to progress and overload your muscular and nervous system to produce an increase in strength and muscle size. There are 3 main variables that go into how you are dictating the difficulty of an exercise, and that is the amount of sets, the amounts of repetitions, and the weight that is being used. Below is an example of how this might be written within a program.

Exercise Sets Reps Weight
Bench Press 2 10 100

To create progression within a program, there needs to be a manipulation of at least 1 of these

variables, and eventually all 3 at some point over time. Using the example above, the first goal you should have is to continue to do 2 sets of 10 repetitions, but slowly increase the weight. Next workout, try to complete the same sets and repetitions, but now with 105 pounds. At some point though, you will hit a sticking point where you reach a weight you can no longer complete 10 repetitions with. At that point, you have 2 options:

1.) Drop the weight back slightly, but now go for 11 repetitions, and then the next workout 12 repetitions.

2.) Continue to increase the weight, but now decrease the amount of repetitions your are doing.

I generally like to have most people stay within the 5 to 12 repetition range for compound movements (multi-joint movements) and 8-15 rep range for isolation movements (single joint movements). So with that being said, you can continually manipulate the weight and repetitions within that range. Sets of 12 repetitions will focus more on the endurance and growth of the muscle, sets of 5 will focus more on strength. We need both, growth and strength, to fully reach our potential in fitness, so to say there is one magic amount of repetitions is false, as we need to continually work through different repetition patterns to work the muscle through all of its potential. At a certain point though, even with changing the weight and repetitions, we will plateau, and that is when it is time to manipulate the 3rd variable, and now add another set. The more sets we do of a particular exercise, the greater stimulus it provides for adaptation. There is a diminishing effect from adding more sets though, as each set added provides less of a stimulus than the preceding set, so just immediately adding more and more sets is not the right practice to optimize a program. But, slowly adding more volume to our workout is the final key to progressing overloading the muscle. Once we add a 3rd set to the above example, our progression plan would then revert to what was originally stated, which is to take a particular weight and keep trying to do more repetitions at that weight, and when that plateaus, increase the weight gradually while dropping the amount of repetitions to whatever amount you can perform at the new given weight.

Hopefully this can help you to better understand how to improve within the gym, and not fall into the same rabbit hole as many when it comes to continuing to do the same things over and over in the gym without any progression. If you have any further questions regarding progression or how to properly implement progressive overload into a program, feel free to shoot me back an email and I’d be happy to help.