Friday, January 27, 2012

A Healthy Body in 10 Words

Drink water.
Eat whole foods.
Do enjoyable cardio.
Lift weights.

Drink water.
Eat whole foods.
Do more cardio.
Lift weights.

Drink water.
Eat more calories.
Lift more weights.
Rest hard.

Apply these 10 words to your life. Make them your absolute priority and all good habits. This is all it takes!

Let us know! Are these all priorities in your life? If not, what are you struggling with? What is keeping you from living a simple, healthy life?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

My Journey - Hitting a Wall

I have taken a lot of time to give all of you some of my best tips on exercise and nutrition, but I haven't found time to tell you about my own journey - until now.


I'm a 22 year old mechanical engineer. I live in Bremerton, Washington with my beautiful wife, Lee-Cassie. She has a blog herself, so check it out! [] I have been exercising and improving my nutrition off and on for the last 8 years, so I definitely know what it's like to go through slumps.

Okay, so don't hate me when I tell you this... Do you promise?....Fine. I have always been skinny. No matter what I have eaten my whole life, I have always been lanky, scrawny, a bean stalk, ectomorphic, or whatever you wanna call it. I have grown up on thousands of pizzas, pounds of mac and cheese, and tons of fast food. I've always thought (as a lot of people do) that skinny means healthy. Here's a quick fact though: Our bodies were made for natural whole foods, not the man made science experiments all of us are guilty of stuffing our faces with. Skinny, obese, strong, or weak, there is no way to bypass this fact. If there is anything I've learned in the last 8 years, it's that skinniness is definitely not directly proportional to health! My family has a history of high blood pressure and heart issues. I knew if I continued to eat poorly, I would be on a fast track to high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and arteriosclerosis among tons of other issues. It's amazing how eating correctly can affect your life.

My freshman year of college (5 years ago), I was 6' 2" and 144 lbs. I added 20 pounds of muscle over my four years at Auburn University (War Eagle!) by improving my diet and being a little more consistent with weight lifting. My engineering courses made it nearly impossible to stay consistent, but my schedule got much better once I graduated. My work day is usually 7:00 am to 3:45 pm. It leaves me plenty of time to hit the gym before dinner. Since I finally had the time, I had to set goals. I ordered "The New Rules of Lifting," written by Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove back in July. It helped me strip my workouts down to the most effective exercises and helped me lay out a one year plan. I'm now 23 weeks into the program and I'm 185 pounds and much stronger than I've ever been. I have seen close to 40% strength increases in several exercises, like deadlift, squat, and bench press. The results have been great so far, but I have recently hit a wall. Before I tell you about the wall, let me tell you about my personal goal.


My goal is simple; be as healthy as I possibly can be. For me, this includes physical, emotional, and spiritual health. It's very important for me to find balance in all of these. I don't want to spend so much time focusing on my physical health that I end up dumber than a box of rocks. Some day down the road I want to be as fit as a professional athlete, have a PhD in engineering, and be a leader in my church. I'm a firm believer in self-improvement and I try to find at least one thing to improve upon each day.

To find a balance in my life, my goals are to:
-Live a long, healthy life with my wife
-Grow stronger in my Christian faith
-Improve the lives of those around me
-Be successful in my career
-Travel the world

Fitness and nutrition is obviously a small slice of my goals. So why am I writing on it, you ask? Because there is so much information out there about nutrition and fitness and it takes a crazy amount of time to find out the correct ways to eat and exercise! I've had to devote a ton of time to find out how to be physically healthy. This is time I could have been spending focusing on all of the other aspects of my life. I'm hoping this blog will help save you a ton of time by giving you simple information, so you can spend time doing all of the other things you enjoy.


I have not gone to the gym in the last 10 days. This doesn't sound so bad, right? I know, but I think it definitely is. I started this 52 week program 23 weeks ago. I haven't missed a single planned workout since I've started. I have skipped the last 6 planned workouts and now I feel almost no desire to pick up any weights. I am having a hard time convincing myself that I need to keep going and I'm continuing to make tons of excuses. I've had a pretty bad cold since last Monday, the gym was closed due to snow for a few days last week, and I went out of town this past weekend. Also, I will start working 9 straight days of 13 hour night shifts this coming Monday. I'm a little worried I'll never get back!


So here's my plan. I won't have much time to devote to the gym during the next two weeks, so I'm going to eat especially healthy and hit the gym hard as soon as I'm done with the long shifts. I'm being a huge hypocrite because I firmly believe that you should never put things off, but February 13th will be the day.
I will have 6 weeks of strength exercises, 1 week off, 6 weeks of hypertrophy workouts, 1 week off, 4 weeks of strength workouts, 2 weeks off, then 6 weeks of fat loss exercises. This has me ending sometime in August. I need you guys to help hold me accountable!

Let us know! What's the longest plan you've ever had? How do you break through your walls? What are your goals?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Essential Exercises

The following exercises are the ones that I consider vital to any weight lifting program. If you are not currently doing them, you should be! I have seen the best results from these exercises and I never saw significant strength gains until I used all of them in my routines. The New Rules of Lifting by Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove only strengthened my beliefs. It is an excellent read for anyone considering weight lifting. If you aren’t considering weight lifting, why not!? Weight lifting (with some cardio) is the absolute best thing you can do for your body.

Only young guys though, right? Absolutely not! Who should do them? Anyone with any sort of fitness goal or any desire to be the healthiest they can be.  This includes men and women of all ages.

Here is a list of the exercises, why you probably aren’t doing them, and why you definitely should do them!  I will also mention how some people approach these exercises incorrectly. I will leave it to you to find the proper technique. I highly suggest Strength Training Anatomy, 3rd ed, Delavier as a reference to proper form. It is a very thorough book with loads of information on just about every exercise you can think of. If you get mixed answers from your research or you are just unsure on proper technique, I would be glad to explain any of these. Just leave a comment!

The squat is the ultimate lower body exercise. It primarily works your quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteus. It works your lower-back which has to keep your body upright through the lift. Lastly, it enlists all of your muscles from your feet to your abdominals and middle back.
Excuses I have heard:
Only athletes need to do squats. False. Squats are the ultimate leg exercise. You saw the lengthy list of muscles that squats engage!
I’m too old to be lifting free weights. Definitely not. This applies to all of the following exercise. I encourage Men and women of all ages to lift free weights. Use light weights and work your way up if necessary. I have seen countless episodes of The Biggest Loser where 60 year olds are lifting weights and seeing amazing improvements in their overall health.
It will hurt my back. With proper form, squats are incredibly safe. Just make sure to keep your back straight. Do not hunch over. If you’re worried about form try to utilize the mirrors in the gym to keep yourself on track – yes, mirrors are there for more than just the buff guys to check themselves out in.
Leg press is better and safer. Leg presses isolate your quadriceps and you don’t work half the muscles you would with a squat. Not to mention, leg presses put horrible sheering stresses on your knees.

The deadlift, like the squat, works just about all of your lower body muscles. For this exercise the focus shifts your gluteus, hamstring, and lower back. Your trapezius (the muscle between your neck, shoulder blades, and middle back) and forearms also get a great workout from having to support the barbell. Still questioning the importance of deadlifts, think about this: You probably pick things up off of the ground pretty often, right? If you want to decrease your risk of back injury, do deadlifts. Strengthening your lower back is very important for protecting your spine.
It will hurt my back. Just like squats, with proper form, deadlifts are incredibly safe. Just make sure to keep your back straight. I always tell people to poke their butt out. We have a natural tendency to want to hunch over, but do not. Hunching and doing the exercise incorrectly is how you would hurt your back. Just keep that butt poked out!

This works all of the same muscles as squats and deadlifts, but allows you to attack the all-important hip flexors. If you have a desk job or just spend a lot of time sitting, you will have pretty tight hip flexors. This limits your mobility by making it difficult to take long steps or jump.  Lunges are very important for increasing your flexibility around your hips and legs. You can do these by holding weights at your sides or a barbell on your shoulders. There are several variations (static lunge, dynamic lunge, and twisting lunge just to name a few).
I haven’t heard too many excuses from people about lunges, but the problem I often see is that people will do tons of them without any weight. Adding weight helps stretch and contract the hip flexors even more than a weight-less lunge, while increasing strength in all of your leg muscles.

I put these together because they are all pushing exercises. It is important to do all of these or you will be building uneven shoulders and, more importantly, an uneven upper body. I have never heard any excuses from men on these exercises, but it seems women avoid them like a bad disease!
I don’t want a big flat chest or wide shoulders like a guy. Women can and should lift the same as men. Genetically, females do not have the same amount of testosterone that males do. For this reason, women cannot build large muscles without supplements and crazy diets. There are a small percentage of women who have high testosterone. If you are one of these women, just avoid heavy weights and make sure to work your chest and back evenly. For all of you women out there, I challenge you to start lifting just like men.  I doubt any of you will grow big strong muscles like men. Seriously, try it! If you start to see bigger muscles than you want, just ease back on those exercises (reduce weight, increase reps). You can lift like a man and mold an incredible feminine figure.

Most guys crave what I like to call “mirror muscles.” This includes the chest, abdominals, and biceps. For this reason, guys head straight for the benches and dumbbells when they get in the gym. Guys that focus on these mirror muscles rarely spend an equal amount of time doing these three pull exercises.   Everyone that does this is building a very lop-sided body.  If you do a push exercise like a bench press, it is very important to do the opposite muscles in the form of a pull. The pull exercise associated with the bench press would be the row. You want to make sure you’re working both equally! I’m pretty sure this is an epidemic.

Read my earlier post, "Don't Stop Running," on how to incorporate cardio into your routine. You need to change the amount of time you devote to cardio based on your goals. 

So that’s it! That’s the list. Pretty short right? You’re probably thinking, “You left out bicep curls!” That’s because they are a waste of time! Focus on chin-ups for working the biceps and your upper body. If you want to continue to burn out your biceps after chin-ups, wrap dumbbells with towels and do towel dumbbell curls. This does great work on your forearms. There’s no reason to just work one muscle when you can work two! That’s the point of all of these exercises. They all will give you the most bang for your buck. Sure, they’re the hardest, but that is because they work the most! Incorporate these exercises into your workouts and you’ll see fat burning, muscle building results in no time. Better yet, you will be on track to be the healthiest you can be!

Please ask me any questions you have about form or clarifications about any of these exercises! Do you avoid any of these like the plague? Are you going to try to start incorporating these into your workout routine?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Don't Stop Running

I know, I know.  In my first post, I talked about weight lifting being more effective for weight loss than running and other cardio exercises.  I still believe this to be true, but I am not asking you to stop running, swimming, biking, or any other cardio exercise to only lift weights.  Cardio exercises can have massive benefits for your body including improving heart health, strengthening your immune system, quick calorie burn, strengthening bones and muscles, and improving your self-esteem.  I believe it’s necessary to balance our weight lifting and cardio.  The amount of time you spend on each, however, should be determined by your goals.

For Weight Loss

My earlier post dispelled any myth that cardio is better for long-term weight loss than weight lifting, because weight lifting builds muscle, boosts metabolism, and continues to burn fat even when you’re at rest.  Running and other cardio exercises are incredibly efficient at burning calories making running, biking, swimming, etc. all great ideas if you are looking for a quick burn.

To maximize weight loss, it is important to make time for both weight training and cardio. I recommend weight lifting three days a week and running three other days, taking one day for rest. For example, lift weights Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and run on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. 

You could also do two-a-days, but make sure you weight lift in the morning and run in the evening. Your body requires glycogen for weight lifting that would be burned by a cardio session. Also, when you deplete your glycogen levels with weight lifting, you get a jump start on burning fat with your cardio. This is because, when you run, your body often spends the first 15-20 minutes depleting glycogen. Once glycogen is eliminated, you start burning body fat.

For Strength Gains or Muscle Mass

Cardio can ruin you! I have experienced this first hand. Several years ago, I was in a fantastic weight training routine. I would spend an hour lifting weights, three times a week and I was seeing tons of strength improvements with this particular workout. A few weeks into the routine, I started to play pickup games of basketball after each workout. I did this for a few weeks until I noticed that I was actually losing strength and muscle mass. I was going completely backwards! So I ditched the basketball and continued to see the gains I was working so hard for.

I have since learned how to work in a little cardiovascular exercise without sacrificing gains in the gym. You might be thinking, “Why do any cardio at all?” Well, adding in a little cardio allows us to continue to get benefits that we would not normally get from weight training. You will get improved cardiovascular health, better endurance, and burn excess fat to help you get that cut body you are looking for. I have three simple rules that I like to follow to ensure I get these benefits without sacrificing all of my hard work in the weight room.

Rule #1 – If you perform cardiovascular exercises, you must eat more. Try eating at least as many calories as you predict you have burned. If you don’t cover the energy demands of your workout, you will lose progress.

Rule #2 – Perform between 12 and 20 minutes of intense interval cardio. I have read that this is plenty of time to get all of the benefits from cardiovascular exercise.  Any longer and your body will have two separate exercises to recover from and you will start to see fewer gains with your weight lifting exercises. Your intervals should be short and intense followed by a longer recovery period (e.g. 30 seconds of intense running followed by 90 seconds of a slow jog or fast walk).

Rule #3 – Separate your weight lifting sessions and cardio sessions with as much time as possible OR do your cardio immediately after weight lifting. I would do the former though. I worry that a fatigued body is more prone to injury. Two-a-days are especially horrible ideas. Your body, like mine when I was playing basketball, will choose to recover from the cardio and you will stop seeing gains from lifting. Unless you are a genetic freak, it is just impossible to be an endurance runner and a successful weight lifter.

For the Endurance Athlete

You are lucky. Endurance sports can negate any gains in weight lifting, but it is very unlikely weight lifting will ruin your progress in endurance activities. Obviously, you would not want to waste your time in the weight room though, so there are a few guidelines you should follow. You should obviously put your endurance activity as your first priority. You don’t want to lift weights before your cardio session in the same day because you will increase muscle fatigue and your chance for injury. You want to run while you have the energy. Try to separate your endurance activity and strength training, however. If you don’t, you will likely sabotage your progress in your endurance while seeing very minimal gains in your strength training. You will also deplete your body of glycogen (as I mentioned earlier) required for weight lifting and probably increase your risk of injury. Try to lift weights just two or three times a week and remember to keep it separate.  

Let us know! Do you lift weights and run? What kind of balance/schedule do you use to accomplish your goals? 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Grocery List - Fruit

I always have a hard time to remember what fruits I should buy organic and what is safe to eat non-organic. I would buy all organic if I could, but sometimes the selection is low and the prices are just way too high. This is why I've split this list into conventional (aka non-organic) fruits I think are safe and ones I think we should buy organic. The ones in the list titled "Fruit Okay to Buy Non-Organic/ Conventional" are almost always considered 'clean fruits' and are free of pesticides.The fruits in the "Fruit to Buy Organic" list have at least a generous amount of those pesky pesticides when grown conventionally. In case you were wondering, no, you cannot wash all the pesticides off. They are treated throughout the growing process and a lot of it is absorbed.

I tried to alphabetize the list to help with looking things up. Fruits I consider to be highest in pesticides all have an asterisk * next to them. I would avoid conventional forms of these asterisked fruits as much as possible. I hope this helps you guys and gals out. I know I will be pulling this list up about every time I'm wandering around the produce aisle or making my grocery list.

Fruit Okay to Buy Non-Organic/Conventional 
Blueberries (local)
Cantaloupe (in season and domestic/avoid ones imported from Mexico)
Honeydew Melon

Fruit to Buy Organic
Blueberries (if  buying non-local)
Cantaloupe (if out of season/imported)
Peaches*** (conventional peaches usually have the highest amount of pesticides over any other fruit)
Tomatoes (buy local)

*Fruits considered to be high in pesticides if non-organic.
**Very high in pesticides if non-organic
***Extremely high in pesticides if non-organic

Let Us Know! Do you have certain fruits that you only buy organic? Is your decision to buy organic fruit based on flavor, the lack or pesticides and other chemicals, or because you like to stick to locally grown crops? Is there anything missing from the lists? 

Friday, January 13, 2012

When to Eat Organic

 If you are just starting to eat healthier foods, I would not worry about eating organic at first. Your first priorities should be to eliminate junk food from your diet and start eating more fruits, vegetables, and healthy snacks. There are people who only buy organic foods, but guess what – they could still be filling their bodies with junk.

Organic foods, under the United States Department of Agriculture's definition, are free of synthetic substances; contain no antibiotics and hormones; have not been irradiated or fertilized with sewage sludge; were raised without the use of most conventional pesticides; and contain no genetically modified ingredients.

This is all fine and dandy but when you're eating organic cheese puffs you are still eating junk food!  I'm completely guilty of this, by the way, those organic cheese puffs are some of my all-time favorite snacks – but, like many of you out there, I have tried to begin changing my ways. My point is, there are tons of organic products that are just as horrible for you as their non-organic counterparts. 

Health expert, Jillian Michaels, talked about eating organic in one of her recent podcasts. She is a huge advocate for eating organic for, what I consider to be, all of the right reasons. She does not want to ingest all of those extra hormones, antibiotics, and other chemicals that are often found in conventional foods. But, you might ask, organic food is expensive, right? This is true in a lot of cases, so you have to find your balance. Jillian says if you have any expendable income, and you’re interested in being healthy and keeping chemicals out of your body, you should use it to buy organic foods. I think this is a great tip and it has stuck with me. I think what’s most important is that you find balance in your budget to include organics. In the end, it’s your prerogative – conventional foods with all the chemicals -or- organic, natural foods eaten the way God intended without any additives.

My wife and I have been trying to buy more organic fruits, vegetables, and meat lately and you can really tell the difference with some of them!  I think many of them taste better, sure,  every once in a while they don't, but I can rest assured that I'm not pumping my body full of all those man-made chemicals in conventional foods. I'm still not eating entirely organic foods yet and I’m having a hard time convincing my wife it’s worth the extra money that could be spent on books and clothes and other girly things, but it's a work in progress.

Here's a short list on why I think we should eat organic: (Remember, I’m only human and my reasons are  based on a lot of personal research and a passion for a healthier, better life.)
1) Free of pesticides (contain neurotoxins that damage brain and nerve cells)
2) Higher in nutrients like vitamins, antioxidants, and healthy minerals
3) Earth-supportive (a lot of modern agricultural practices are dangerous for the environment)
4) Support local/small farmers
5) Lower your cancer risk
6) Free of antibiotics, hormones, and other chemicals

Let us know! Are you eating a healthy diet? Do you avoid all of those processed foods in the middle aisles at the grocery store? Do you eat anything organic?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Bad Food, Cigarettes, and My Grocery List

I have always been interested in reading about and studying body transforming exercises, but I did not start caring about healthy eating until a few years ago. I've always been scrawny, so I always thought I was healthy no matter what I ate. Boy was I wrong!

I have often heard people say that "the food you eat is half the battle" and I couldn't agree more. Since I have started eating healthier foods, I have seen a huge change in my life. I feel lighter, happier, I sleep better, I get sick much less often, and I have seen a ton of improvement in all of my workouts. And these are just the short term benefits! I also have the peace of mind that everything I'm putting into my body is fuel for a longer life. Eating healthy will give me good cholesterol, blood pressure, body fat, bone strength, and cardiovascular health for the rest of my life.

I like to compare bad foods to cigarettes. They are both addicting. Our bodies, by nature, love high calorie, fatty foods. The problem is that all of these foods are terrible for us. Most of them are man-made with all kinds of ingredients that are not meant for our bodies. Sure, the FDA approves them for consumption, but the long term effects of eating tons of these horrible foods are equivalent to effects from smoking. Eating poorly and smoking both lead to a shorter life expectancy in some way or another. Poor food choices can lead to heart problems, diabetes,  hypertension (high blood pressure), and even cancer in addition to tons of other horrible things. 

Avoiding poor food choices is a daily battle. There is conflicting data on just about anything you pull off of the grocery store shelf.  I spend a few hours every week just trying to learn what food is healthy and what is not.  

My best advice is to find a hand full of healthy options and recipes that you enjoy and stick to them! Jillian Michaels is a personal trainer and health expert from shows like The Biggest Loser and The Doctors.  She has a great podcast I like to listen to each week (It's called "The Jillian Michaels Show" if you want to check it out). Anyways, in one of her podcasts she talked about what she likes to eat to stay healthy. She said she just has 2 or 3 different things she'll eat for each meal of the day. She always knows her intake of calories, protein, fat, etc. I love the simplicity of this! I took this idea and compiled my own personal menu. It was so easy to do and it makes trips to the grocery store a heck-of-a-lot quicker! I know, I know. You're probably thinking "What if I get tired of these meals?" or "What if I can't eat the same thing twice in one week?" If you get tired of something, just can always just switch it out and you can always make the menu as big as you want. Maybe you want a menu the size of the novel they have at The Cheesecake Factory. There's good things to be said for that and I think you could definitely benefit from my upcoming 'Grocery List.'


As a start on my posts on nutrition, I've decided to make a 'Grocery List.' I'm hoping it will be a great resource for anyone making their own grocery lists or even someone looking to add another recipe to their 20 page menu. I have a hard time remembering all of the foods that are healthy. For example, I always forget which types of fish need to be wild-caught and which types are okay to eat farm-raised. I also forget what types of fruits I need to buy organic and what types are okay conventional. For now I'm just going to make a huge list of healthy foods. If you want me to explain my choices, feel free to comment or email me. And by all means, let me know if you have some more healthy options to add to the list. I will try to categorize everything, but I imagine it may take a while to list them all. There are more healthy options out there than you think! 

What bad foods do you have a hard time quitting? What's your favorite thing on your healthy menu? Let us know and maybe we'll start a Better Health Blog cookbook. 

Grocery List - Vegetables

I am terrible about eating all of my vegetables. Growing up, the only servings of vegetables I got were in the form of pizza sauce or taco lettuce. Ever since I met my wife, she's been trying to get me on the right track.  If there is one thing I have learned in my research on nutrition, you should definitely consume more veggies than any other type of food. 

I am dividing my list into what I think is safe to eat non-organic and what should be bought organic. Vegetables in the organic list have been known to be covered in pesticides. I have alphabetized them to make the list a little easier to use. Vegetables especially high in pesticides have asterisks * next to them.  I would avoid the non-organic/conventional types of these asterisked veggies at all costs. The more asterisks, the worse. I hope this list helps and remember to keep eating your veggies!

Vegetables to Buy Non-Organic/Conventional
Brussel Sprouts
Corn, sweet (buy local)
Sweet Potatoes
Tomatoes (buy local)
Winter Squash (if you don't eat the skin)

Vegetables to Buy Organic
Bell Pepper**
Carrots*** (carrots are sometimes grown just to absorb heavy metals from soil)
Celery*** (generally most pesticides of any other conventional vegetable)
Collard Greens
Green Beans*
Mushrooms (not a veggie, but you will probably find these in the vegetable aisle)
Summer Squash
Winter Squash (if you eat the skin)

* Vegetables high in pesticides, heavy metals, and other contaminants
** Vegetables very high in pesticides, heavy metals, and other contaminants
*** Vegetables extremely high in pesticides, heavy metals, and other contaminants

If I'm missing any veggies from the list, let us know!

Grocery List - Meats, Poultry, and Fish


Beef (organic, grass-fed) – Get lean cuts of grass-fed beef, 93/7 or better, to avoid high fat content. Grass fed beef will cost extra, but you’ll be avoiding all of the horrible chemicals and hormones that are pumped into most cows. Beef can have anywhere between 25 and 35 grams of protein  and 150 and 250 calories (in 4oz serving) depending on the type of cut.
Bison (organic, grass-fed) – This is a great alternative to beef. Fat content is generally lower and there is a ton of protein packed in (32g in 4oz). Get grass fed!
Pork Tenderloin (organic)


Turkey (organic) – 34g of protein and 180 calories in 4 ounces. Turkey has to be the best poultry you can eat.
Chicken breast (organic) – It’s the leanest part of the chicken. You can also get it ground like beef and turkey. It’s another one of the best proteins you can buy with 190 calories, 35g of protein, and 5g of fat in a 4oz serving. I have a hard time finding organic chicken, but it is definitely worth the splurge. You avoid tons of synthetic chemicals, GMOs (genetically modified organisms), and all kinds of other bad stuff. Anyone who has seen Food Inc. knows what I’m talking about and if
you haven’t seen it, you should definitely add it to your Netflix queue!


Salmon (wild caught) – Salmon is probably the best fish you can eat. It’s full of fatty acids called Omega-3s that have tons of great benefits for your body including cardiovascular health, anti-inflammatory, better brain function, and protection from heart attacks and strokes (200 calories and 29g of protein in 4oz). Avoid farm raised at all costs, they are fed chemicals to give them color, fed things like chicken feces, and given antibiotics at higher levels than any other livestock.
Sardines and Herring – Both of these, like Salmon, are high in Omega-3s.
Trout (farm raised) – Farm raised trout is just fine (140 calories and 24g of protein in 4oz).
Tuna (limit mercury exposure! eat skipjack light canned tuna if you want to eat often, eat albacore or yellowfin if you just want to eat it once a month or so)

Let us know! Is there anything missing from these lists? Are there any meats you like to eat organic?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Making Your Workout Plan and Staying Motivated

Before I start talking about motivation and planning, let’s address the word no one likes to hear - Procrastination. We all procrastinate - let’s just get that out in the open. There’s not a one of us who doesn’t, to some degree.  When you’re starting a new workout or any new good habit at all, just take Mr. Procrastination and punch him right in the face!

How many times have you had the following thoughts? “I’ll start exercising next Monday” -or- “I’ll start eating well after the holidays.” If you’ve had these thoughts, did you actually follow through? Chances are you did not and, unfortunately, Mr. Procrastination won yet again. There is no reason not to start these habits RIGHT NOW. If you want to start working out, go to the gym TODAY. If it’s too late, go ahead and get your workout clothes together for tomorrow. If you want to start eating well, throw out all of those bad foods TONIGHT and get a grocery list together for healthy food.


When I started lifting weights about 8 years ago, I would go the gym whenever I had spare time with a few exercises or body parts I wanted to work (usually abs, biceps, and chest like any teenager wanting a ‘beach body’). I had no real plan at all. I would do this for a month or two and hardly see any results. Without a plan, I was completely frustrated, tired of exercising, not to mention, totally wasting my time.

When you begin weight lifting, making a plan is essential. Just follow these 4 simple rules:

Make a 1-week schedule that works all muscle groups: You have to decide whether you want to lift weights 2, 3, or 4 days per week. Keep in mind that resting is very important because it gives your muscles much needed time to repair. Do not lift weights more than two days without taking a rest day (a lower intensity exercise is still ok). Make sure you work all muscle groups (shoulders, chest, back, biceps, triceps, legs, abs) within this week. You could split these groups into 2, 3, or 4 separate days.

Continue doing your 1-week schedule for 4 to 8 weeks: This 4 to 8 week routine gives you time to see progress. You’ll be able to do more weight each week. Your technique will improve and so will your body. The problem is, as you near the end of this routine, your muscles will start to get used to each of these exercises and you will begin to plateau.

Create another routine at least a week before your current routine ends: This new routine will keep you from plateauing! Plus, I always get bored doing the same thing for a long time, so I’m always excited about changing my workout.

Take a week off after your 4 to 8 week routine: By now you have probably not had a single day without being sore in some part of your body. It is very important that you take a break for both emotional and physical reasons. Some of you will be thinking “Thank goodness about time for a break,” but most of you will be excited about getting started the next week. Just know that when you work hard, you have to rest hard as well!


I’ve been lifting weights for the past 6 months with 5 different 4 to 8 week routines, but this past week I hit a wall. I took a two week break during the holidays and when I started back, I did not want to be in the gym. My current routine starts on Monday by working legs and I really hate leg days so that probably didn’t help. I didn’t like it, but I stayed in the gym and finished my workout anyways. That night, I couldn’t have been happier and more proud of myself. Now I’m more excited than ever about my plan.

Set goals. What kept me motivated when I hit that wall were my goals. 6 months ago, I made a somewhat long term (I say ‘somewhat’ because the ultimate long term goal should be lengthening your healthy life!) goal to lift weights for a year without skipping a single day of workouts. The fact that I have already been through 6 months without missing a day holds me accountable. I think to myself “I can’t give up now!” I also make weekly goals. I take a log sheet with me to the gym every day to record the weight I lift. Not everyone does this, but I highly recommend it. Recording my weight allows me to beat myself each time I go to the gym. If I don’t beat my weights from the previous week, I’m losing and no one likes losing! Think about how much you could progress if you continue to beat your past weights for 6 consecutive weeks. I’ve seen more than 30% strength gains in my 6-week routines before!

Workout with a partner. If you have a partner in crime, you will always have someone to spot you for one, but, more importantly, you will have someone who can pick you up when your down. It is unlikely that you will both lack motivation on the same day. I always thought I needed a partner to hold me accountable each week, but not everyone needs one. I haven’t been able to keep a steady partner  since I started 6 months ago, but I’ve learned to stay motivated by other means (above).

Look back in time.  Sometimes looking at old photos of how you were before you began training, losing weight, and building muscle are more than enough to keep you motivated. This also works with recorded weights and numbers.  

Tell people about your goals. Just vocalizing your goals can make it a lot easier for you to stick to them. They suddenly feel more real and tangible. Plus, you do not want to fail in front of your friends and family or let them down. I’ve seen people that post their goals on Facebook. The people (men and women both) who I’ve seen post their weights and weight goals on Facebook have all obliterated their goals and have all been more excited doing so. I’m sure the same would definitely work for guys with strength goals or guys trying to put on muscle mass.

Let us know! What are your fitness goals? Weight loss? Gaining strength? Gaining muscle mass? Try writing them all down and use your new planning skills to make a plan to achieve them!

Strength Training is the Ultimate Exercise

People sometimes look at me like I’m crazy when I proclaim that I don’t need to run several miles a day or diet to get in shape.

What is wrong with this guy? Isn’t cutting back on food the first step to a six-pack? Isn’t cardio the best way to burn calories and lose weight? No and no. You do not have to starve yourself or run miles upon miles to get in shape.  Yes, that’s right!  No more hours running on the hamster wheel and staring at the wall or eating measly, miserable salads at every meal.  Dieting is a horrible idea by the way (more on this later).

There are several benefits to running and other cardio exercises, so if running is something you enjoy then by all means keep it up. But if you’re anything like me, you can’t stand running on a treadmill or jogging in big circles every day of the week.

90% of you probably know what I’m talking about when I use the term ‘strength training,’ but for those of you who don’t… Strength training is the use of resistance to contract muscles in order to build strength, anaerobic endurance, and size of skeletal muscles.

Strength training is 100% without a doubt better for losing weight than cardio.  Cardio exercises like running, swimming, and cycling all promote cardiovascular health, but when it comes to losing weight, strength training is king.  Why, you ask?  Muscles require more calories than fat to maintain them. People who lift weights increase their muscle mass so their bodies are burning more calories even when at rest. This means you are burning fat even when you’re watching TV or sitting at the dinner table!  Some studies have shown weightlifting can cause your metabolism to increase by up to 15%.  I’ve learned the truth of this statement first hand. My wife complains that I eat everything in the house whenever I start a new lifting regimen.  This is not a problem though, because my body is getting stronger and leaner as I continue to lift.

If you want the body you’re looking for, it’s time to get in the gym and pick up some weights! I’ll suggest some great workouts in upcoming blogs. Until then, check out the fitness sections on or Train at least 3 times a week and make sure you work all of your muscle groups each week. I like to divide my workouts by muscle groups. A good example is: Day 1 - Chest and Triceps, Day 2 - Back and Biceps, Day 3 - Shoulders and Legs.  You can work abs in wherever you like. Try to use free weights instead of those machines. Start light and focus on technique! If you can’t get access to a gym or weight room, there are plenty of exercises you can do at home. Try googling a few ‘home workouts’ for now. I will post some workouts for you soon!


Here's a little food for thought.

Benefits of Weight Lifting
Leaner body
Better athletic performance
Boosts metabolism
Provides fat loss
Increases strength
Improves the immune system
Slows down aging
Improves posture
Improves libido
Reduces stress
Lowers high blood pressure
Improves circulation
Reduces risk of diabetes
Increases confidence
Improves balance
Improves flexibility
Builds stronger bones

What is The Better Health Blog?

Welcome to The Better Health Blog!
by Stephen Walls

This blog is about exercise and nutrition, and why both are important today. I have spent years and years trying to find the best way to exercise and the right food to eat. I have found tons of great advice and ruled out even more terrible information along the way. The Better Health Blog is intended to save you the grief of having to pick healthy foods or a workout through thousands of websites and magazines that each tell you hundreds of different things to do. It's to save you from all of the money and time spent on trying the newest craze.

This blog will give you simple,  up-to-date advice on how to be the healthiest you!