Archive for March, 2011

Losing My Stage Virginity…

Last weekend I did something that I never would have seen myself do. Not in a million years!

For the last few months I have been working out hard. Really hard. I have been spending WAY too much time critiquing myself in the mirror, obsessing about any and all imperfections. I may not be able to stop my hair from falling out, but can I get my calves to grow? Fill out my shoulders? Tighten up my abs? That I CAN do.

I have been shaving my legs and getting spray tans- all the while laughing at myself. I am a simple person from a simple town. What am I doing??

After months of preparation, Saturday was show time. I was smooth, tanned, and ready to step on stage at my very 1st fitness competition!

I had a blast! I did not place, but I was very happy with the way that I looked. I am happy that I competed and I hope that I can continue to do things like this (things that motivate my clients to achieve their goals as well).

If you want to see some pictures of me and the guys that kicked my butt, go to


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Son of a Blend! (Splenda)

So, you are trying to be more health conscious now: working out more, reading my blog, watching what you eat, sharing my blog with your friends, drinking less alcohol, and posting a link to my blog on your Facebook. (Hint, hint) Then you go grocery shopping and you need to pick up some staples- sugar being one of them, and you see “Splenda Blend”.

“What’s this?? Oooh, they claim only half the calories and half the sugar that is in REAL sugar? That is the answer to my prayers! Now I can make those muffins that I like and not feel so guilty about it! Right?”

You better take a closer look at that label!

Lets compare these labels against each-other…

First, we have our regular sugar. One serving is about 15 calories and contains 4 grams of sugar. Sugar is a natural substance that tastes delicious, but needs to be used in small quantities because of its effects on blood sugar and weight gain. Diabetics need to be especially careful with the amount of sugar they consume and always need to be educating themselves on how much sugar is in the different foods that they eat.

Okay, now lets take a look at this “Splenda Blend” stuff. Okay, only about 10 calories per serving and 2g sugar. Looks like they were telling the truth, right? Not exactly…

Did you notice the serving size on both of these labels?


One serving of Sugar is 1 Teaspoon, while one serving of Splenda Blend is only 1/2 Teaspoon. So here’s the deal: Equal amounts of these two items actually have close to the same calories and also contain the same amount of sugar. What’s the difference? Splenda Blend is a mixture of sugar and Sucralose. Sucralose tastes sweeter that sugar, therefore you would need less of it to get the “same” flavor. Again, this isn’t one of those blogs where I try to scare you out of eating certain things, but it is interesting to know that a lot of the additives that the FDA approves are actually ILLEGAL in most countries. So although there is not definitive evidence that Sucralose is harmful to us, I would still recommend at least limiting the amount that you consume.

Here is what I would recommend: When you are baking with sugar, use 1/2 the amount the recipe calls for and try adding some Stevia until you get to your desired sweetness level. Stevia is a natural plant extract, and can be found in many different forms. It is very sweet and has close to ZERO calories! It doesn’t taste exactly like sugar, but neither does Sucralose; however, the long term effects of consuming synthetic sweeteners is still under debate. On the other hand, the long term effect of using Stevia is… a lot less sugar consumed, which means you will be healthier and might even lose a few pounds!

Remember- don’t believe everything you read (even my blog!), try to educate yourself. Do a little research. If your health isn’t reason enough, maybe the health of your children is…

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Killer Chest Exercise

I wanted to share another exercise with you all. This is one of my favorites… Single-arm chest press on a stability ball. This move is great because instead of isolating one muscle you are using multiple muscle groups, however, the stress is still mainly on your pecs.

You’re gonna want to start light with this one; it takes a little getting used to!

You are going to notice immediately that you are not only using your pecs, shoulders, and triceps, but you are also going to feel it in your hamstrings, glutes, and a lot in your obliques! (This is great for core strength!)

If you want to focus more on the upper part of your chest, just drop your hips lower to the ground. If you want to work your abs and glutes more, bring those hips back up. You can also try adding a small twist into the motion, which will take more stress off the shoulder joint and will work your obliques even more! Try it, I know you’ll love it!

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Improve your Bench-Press!

Ahh, the Barbell Bench Chest-Press. Guys just refer to it as “Bench”. Like:

“Hey man, how much can you bench?”

To be honest, this is not my favorite chest exercise. I think it has been slightly over-hyped. It is an exercise with a pretty limited range-of-motion for your shoulders and is notoriously linked to rotator cuff injuries. Personally I feel that you can get more benefit from dumbbells and cables when working your chest. I do, however, believe in constantly switching up my routine from week-to-week, so it will occasionally make it’s way back around. I also (just like all guys) get that machismo feeling every once in a while and will get curious to “see what I can do.”

So let’s take this exercise to the ground. Yes, the ground. Lose the bench for a couple weeks, and I guarantee that you will get stronger! Here’s why:

  • The biggest reason… The ground stops the weight’s momentum, not you. Because of this, you don’t have to waste energy reversing the weights momentum and you will notice that you are able to do more reps than normal. Now you can focus on what you came here to do: push that weight up!
  • More stable. Your feet are even with your hips, which brings your lower back closer to the ground. Now your spine is in a stronger, more neutral position to perform an exercise. No weight belts here! (watch my stomach in the video- you will see it tighten as I press the weight up)
  • You feel safer. A good spotter is very important. They play a few roles, but their most important job is to never let you drop the bar on yourself. Guess what? Nobody’s perfect. However, when you perform this exercise on the ground, you know that the weight can only come down so far and you have one less thing to worry about.

Like I said- spotters are very important when you are lifting heavier weight. Today Rogers is going to  help me out.

So try  this out for a couple of weeks and let me know what you think! Btw- you can do this with dumbbells as well.



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Double-Check That Food Label!

My wife Lilia and I were out of town visiting family this weekend, so Monday night turned into Costco night. Lilia walked into the unnecessarily cold vegetable room, came back with a dog-food-sized bag of spinach, and threw it in the cart. I am not sure why I read the label, because I already know about the stuff, but for some reason I did. Because I am a personal trainer in Newport Beach, I make an effort to educate myself on the foods I eat, and I am always encouraging others to do the same.

What the hell?! 230mg of sodium?

Normally 2 cups of spinach will have about 50mg sodium and is incredibly healthy. It is L.O.A.D.E.D. with vitamins and minerals, and is also stops your body from retaining excess water, but for some reason this stuff has 230mg of sodium! How??

I wish I had an answer for you, but I don’t. The only explanation I could think of is for the purpose of “plumping”. They also do this with the meat you buy. Start paying attention to the labeling on your chicken and you will see “*May contain up to 8% solution.” This is a salt solution that causes the chicken to plump up with water so that YOU pay more for it! The numbers range anywhere from 4-15%! This just shows the importance of reading labels! It is very easy to ignore what may or may not be in our food, but what is it gonna take before people start realizing that even our spinach has been messed with?!

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Lose a “Brunch” of Weight!

Brunch?? I had never heard of this mysterious meal that takes place only on weekends, usually late morning, and involves booze. And then I moved to Newport Beach… I’m not knocking the idea of enjoying food and friends while sipping on a mimosa, but I think that brunch is so trendy that too many people are making it their “go-to” Sunday morning event.

But John, I am going to brunch this weekend. Is there anything you recommend to eat/ drink? When it comes to the choices in booze, I recommend a good Bloody Mary. Why? Because the alternative is Champagne (sugar) mixed with OJ (sugar). Did you know that Orange Juice has as many carbs as Coca-Cola and almost as much sugar? I know… Pretty crazy.

This spicy concoction, however, is LOADED with Vitamin A, C, K, B6, and Folate. It is even a great source of antioxidants including Lycopene, which is strongly linked to better prostate health. If you are gonna drink at 10am, let’s at least try to get something beneficial out of it. What do you think?

But there is nothing else to do that time of day! That’s ridiculous. (Here comes my typical personal trainer response…) First off, if you drink in the morning (especially with a huge breakfast) you are a lot less likely to do anything active for the rest of the day because the alcohol will make you tired. So why don’t we start the day off with something active? How about renting a kayak or going on a bike ride with your significant other? It is a great way to be alone with each other, enjoy the scenery and fresh air, and get away from it all. Hey, you are even going to be burning an extra 300-500+ calories per hour! If you early enough, you will still have enough time to get cleaned up and meet up with your friends for a cocktail and an egg-white omelet. Sounds good to me! 🙂



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Meet Your PB&J’s Skinny Cousin…

As it gets closer and closer to my fitness competition, I have to make some changes to my diet. It doesn’t bother me too much, because I am used to being strict. It doesn’t bother me, that is, until I have to give up my favorite 3pm snack. This is the meal that I look forward to every day; the meal that makes my “diet” easier and therefore keeps me sane. A PB&J sandwich and chocolate milk…

Haha, you know me better than that, don’t you? I am a personal trainer in  Orange  County: I need to lead by example! I have a chocolate protein shake (1cup liquid egg whites and 1 scoop of chocolate protein) and MY version of your mom’s go-to sandwich:

First, I reach for the Ezekiel 4:9 bread. I love this stuff! It is a 100% organic, 100% Whole Grain, FLOUR-LESS BREAD!!! 4 g of COMPLETE protein per slice, no sugar, and only 80 calories per slice. There are other breads like this, but Ezekiel 4:9 can be found at almost any grocery store for about $3.

I have always preferred the taste of peanut butter over almond butter, but because almonds are [slightly] better for you and contain fewer calories, I’ll make the switch. 1 tbsp = 90 calories.

Then the kicker; 1/2 tbsp Organic Strawberry Spread (Kirkland). Only 20 calories, 4g of sugar, and DELICIOUS! Quick note: I am not the bearded guy in corduroys trying to force you to buy everything organic because “The Man” is adding mind-control chemicals in our food, but there are certain items (like nut butters and fruit spreads) that can contain A LOT of  disgusting additives. Trust me, “Google” some of the ingredients in your packaged food and see what you find!

So whats the verdict? A PB&J sandwich you can feel good about eating! Less than 3oo calories, 12g protein, and 8g fiber! Are you Diabetic? Then this sandwich is your friend…

Until we meet again, sandwich. Until we meet again…

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