health articles

The following links are informative sources from a variety of authors including myself as a Holistic Personal Trainer Los Angeles & Nutrition Coach that are related to health and fitness. If you are an author that would like to submit a health and fitness page feel free to email me at:


Diet Tips

This article was featured in Flex Magazine, July 1997 issue.

Success leaves clues. Ask any top professionals, including bodybuilders, “How can I maximize my progress?” and the best answer will delineate not only the right steps to take but also the pitfalls to avoid.

As a Holistic Nutrition Coach in Los Angeles, my goal is to share with you the nutrition lessons I’ve learned through developing eating regimens for several top bodybuilders, some of whom are now in the professional ranks. My hope is that these tips will allow you to correct any flaws in your nutrition program and hence maximize your progress. Here are the 10 biggest mistakes to avoid if you want to fulfill your bodybuilding potential.

1. Dieting impatiently

Many bodybuilders jump from one diet to another without ever giving the initial program enough time to work. It takes at least three weeks for your body to adapt to dietary modifications. If you start a high carb, moderate protein, low fat diet with reduced calories, and your goal is to lose fat, expect to notice visible changes after approximately 21 days. Don’t anticipate immediate changes in your physique.

2. Failing to Accurately track calories

Be sure to count not only calories but carbohydrates, proteins and fats as well. Because they don’t keep a record of what they’re eating, many bodybuilders don’t lose fat at the rate they expect, while others fail to gain weight. Don’t make the mistake of miscalculating your calorie intake. Successful bodybuilders keep precise records; they don’t guess or estimate. Consult the Nutrition Almanac or a comparable source for food values and buy a scale.

3. Eating haphazardly

Whether you’re trying to lose fat or add lean body mass, consistency is key, and sporadic eating is anathema to making progress. If you’re a hardgainer or you have a difficult time getting ripped, the five times a day meal plan is best. This approach (a meal every two or three hours) inhibits storage of fat and increases lean body mass by enhancing nutrient absorption.

4. Depending on the scale to gauge progress

Don’t depend solely on the scale to fine tune your diet. When bodybuilders try to add size, they often become discouraged when their bodyweight doesn’t increase rapidly. They frequently jump the gun by adding too many calories to accelerate their progress. Similarly, precontest competitors striving to get down in size sometimes subtract too many calories. While the scale and other measuring devices like bodyfat calipers are effective tools, it’s better to rely on photos and an unbiased eye to measure your progress. After all, bodybuilding is a visual sport. If you look leaner and fuller, then your fat loss diet is probably working – even if the scale and bodyfat calipers don’t agree.

5. Overeating (especially carbohydrates)

Athletes who try to add mass often go overboard and eat an excessive number of calories, which are then converted into bodyfat. Then there are bodybuilders who eat a very low fat diet but still gain too many bodyfat because of an extremely high intake of carbohydrates. Sure, carbs are required for hard training, and they aid in recovery, But once the body absorbs what it needs, the excess will be quickly deposited as fat.

6. Failing to personalize your bodybuilding diet.

There’s nothing wrong with learning from what the pro bodybuilders do. However, Dorian Yate’s diet is vastly different from Nasser El Sonbaty’s. What they have in common is an individualized, or customized approach. Dorian’s diet might not work for Nasser’s, and vice versa. Maintaining detailed records of what you eat and how you react to those foods can help you customize a diet that’s ideal for your needs.

7. Viewing supplements as a magic bullet

Some bodybuilders try to shed fat by taking carnitine and chromium, yet they fail to initiate the fat burning process by lowering their caloric consumption. Others use creatine, glutamine or branched chain amino acids to beef up, but fail to consume enough calories and proteins to stimulate a positive nitrogen balance. Supplements work to enhance a nutrition program, not to make up for poor planning and nutritional mistakes.

8. Becoming a slave to canned tuna

To be successful, you have to eat the right way all the time. I’ve known athletes who burn out from the boredom of eating nothing but plain chicken breasts and tuna straight out of the can. Laura Creavalle’s cookbook, The Lite Lifestyle, contains 150 fat free and sugar free recipes designed for precontest bodybuilders. These recipes allow you to stick with your eating program for the long haul, which produces substantive results.

9. Eliminating all Fat

Cutting fat from your diet is helpful in controlling total caloric intake, but removing fat completely from your diet and relying exclusively on very low fat or fat free proteins like turkey, fish and protein powders can lead to a decrease in fat metabolism and/or retard growth. A low fat diet that includes essential fatty acids found in meat, chicken and fish is useful in promoting optimal recovery growth and fat metabolism.

10. Making enormous changes all at once

When adding or subtracting calories from your diet, try to make very small incremental changes to allow your body to adapt these dietary manipulations. Severe reductions in calories will cause the body to hoard fat; an abundant increase

Chris Aceto

How Can You Stay Lean During The Holiday?

It’s the time of the year when people on average gain 5 to 10 pounds. The next two months will bring ample opportunity for you to indulge, to enjoy and to expand your waistline. Of course the choice is yours.  Most will wait till January to begin a new training program, but there are a few who will hedge their eating and increase cardio to make up for the holiday food surplus.

Now is the time to begin reestablishing your fitness program so that by the time January 1st rolls around, you will already be in good shape.  So in this moment of clarity, this calm before the storm, let’s outline a plan that will save you from unwanted holiday pounds.

1) Start Training Today: Exercise is the first thing to go when people get busy, and the holiday season is notorious for empty gyms. This year do something different and go to the gym or join a gym.  There are several things you can do to kick start your program.

  • Hire a personal trainer – By hiring a personal trainer this will get you back on track.  A good trainer will establish two important principals: accountability and awareness.  He will also establish a fitness program that will get you on track.
  • Take a cardio class – Find a cardio program that’s fun.  Kick boxing, sports, or spinning is a great way to burn calories.
  • Recruit a friend – Motivation is always a problem when starting a new program.  One way around this issue is to have someone you can be accountable to like a friend who is also committed to losing body fat.  Make sure that your friend is motivated, positive, and has similar goals.
  • Get your family involved – Support is the most important aspect to sticking to a fitness and nutritional program.  Have your family become part of your program.  This way you can support each other to reach a specified goal.

2) Moderation is Key – Please don’t over indulge.  This will be a huge problem come January 1st.  Go ahead and have what you want on Thanksgiving and Christmas but don’t stuff yourself so full that you feel sick.

  • At holiday parties load your plate first with greens, vegetables and lean meats before breads and heavier foods. Also drink water with your meal and keep alcoholic beverages to a minimum.
  • Watch what you drink, most beverages are filled to the brim with calories. Hot drinks from Starbucks, cocktails at parties and eggnog around a crackling fire-all very enjoyable and all filled with empty calories.
  • If you do indulge try to negate these calories by doing cardio the next day.

You are in control of your life and your waist line.  Now is the time to change.  The key is your mindset. Most people approach the holidays with the mindset that says ‘I deserve to indulge and I shouldn’t have to exercise since it’s the holidays.  This is fine if you don’t mind entering 2009 a few pounds heavier, a little less healthy, and with lower energy than ever before.

Enter 2009 in better shape than you are today.  Give yourself the gift of health and happiness.  You deserve it!


Food Recipe:


Hard boiled eggs,
Trader Joe’s Multigrain Oats,

Preparation:  Cook 18oz of the Multi Grain Oats (cook entire container).  In a separate large bowl cut up 4 apples and add the pieces to the bowl.  Also, add 2 cups of blueberries and a handful of raisins.  Add cinnamon.  Once you have finished cooking the oatmeal, add it to the bowl and then mix.
Meal: 2 to 4 hardboiled eggs and a fist full of the Oatmeal Mix.  Also, you can add ground flax seed to the Oatmeal.

Recipes I

By the time people download my grocery list, they are completely frustrated with the way they look and feel.  To get you started on your way to changing your body and your life, I would like to show you a couple of my favorite recipes. They both are simply to make and are quite tasty.



Hard boiled eggs,
Trader Joe’s Multigrain Oats,

Preparation:  Cook 18oz of the Multi Grain Oats (cook entire container).  In a separate large bowl cut up 4 apples and add the pieces to the bowl.  Also, add 2 cups of blueberries and a handful of raisins.  Add cinnamon.  Once you have finished cooking the oatmeal, add it to the bowl and then mix.

Meal: 2 to 4 hardboiled eggs and a fist full of the Oatmeal Mix.  Also, you can add ground flax seed to the Oatmeal.


1 pound lean ground turkey
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
14 oz. black beans
28 oz. diced tomatoes (sodium -free)
1 tsp oregano
½ tsp black pepper, freshly ground


Brown ground turkey in non-stick dutch oven or large pot along with onion, garlic, and green pepper over medium heat until turkey is    fully cooked.  Drain off any excess oil.
Add spices and beans.  Stir together for 1 minute.
Add tomatoes and bring to boil.  Reduce heat and simmer on low for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Recipes II

Today’s tip will focus on a couple of tasty recipes.  Both dishes are easy to make and are quite tasty… :)



1 pounds lean eye of round,
2 large potatoes, peeled,
2 large carrots, peeled & cut in 1- inch pieces,
2 medium onions, cut into eighths,
½ cup red wine,
1 tsp. black pepper, freshly ground.

Place beef in Dutch oven or deep baking dish.
Place potatoes, carrots and onions evenly around beef.
Pour wine evenly over beef and vegetables.  Sprinkle on pepper.
Cover and bake for 1 ½ hours at 300 degrees.



1 pound lean ground turkey breast,
½ tsp. cayenne pepper,
½ tsp. garlic powder,
½ tsp coriander,
¼ tsp. black pepper, freshly ground,
½ tsp oregano,
½ tsp basil,
½ cup chicken broth (sodium free).

Combine turkey and dry spices in large bowl.  Mix together thoroughly.
Add chicken broth, mixing well.  Let stand 15-20 minutes.
Form turkey in 8 patties,  approx.  ¾ inch thick.
Cook patties in non-stick skillet over medium heat, 8 minutes on each side, or until thoroughly cooked.

What Is The Secret To Having Great Abs?

One of the top questions I receive at dinner parties, social events, and even at the gym is “how can I get great abs”.  You’ve probably pondered that question at some time or another and you’re likely frustrated with your waistline. Maybe you’ve given up on your abs after doing dozens of crunches only to see zero results. I don’t blame you and before I knew anything about exercise I tried it.  It didn’t’ work.

Forget the infomercials that tell you that you can have great abs if only you buy their product –  crunches simply won’t give you a six pack. One of the most common myths about abs is the concept of spot reduction.  Spot reduction is the idea that if a person workouts an area like abs, they will be able to reduce fat in that specific area.  This is simply incorrect.  Simply put, training one area of your body will not specifically burn fat from that area.

So, what is the answer?  Reduce your overall body fat.  When a person loses fat, they lose it from head to toe.  Think of it as if you are wearing a fat suit.  This fat suit covers your face, your legs, your arms, etc.  The goal is to shrink the thickness of the fat suit.  Once your fat suit begins to shrink, you begin to see great abs.
How thick is your fat suit?  If it is thicker than you like, than you need to begin to take steps to lose body fat.
What are the steps to having great abs?
How often do you exercise? If your answer was anything less than 4 times a week, then that’s the first thing getting between you and streamline abs. How do you define a fat burning workout? A routine including intense cardiovascular training coupled with effective resistance training.

Also, walking on the treadmill for 30 minutes isn’t a fat blasting routine. Neither is a leisurely 20 minutes on the elliptical machine. The truth is that you can dramatically increase your results while investing less time when you exercise right.

Cardio exercise is all about maintaining an effective level of intensity. This doesn’t mean that you should be out of breath or gasping for air. It does mean that you need to push yourself.

Resistance training is the second key part of a fat burning workout.  It is your muscle that is the standard for your metabolism or metabolic rate.  The more muscle you have the faster your metabolism and the best way to build muscle is resistance training or weight training.

What kind of shape is your diet in? Diet is a big stumbling block for most people-especially as it relates to their midsection. Here’s a fact: If your diet is out of control then your abs will be too. You can’t trim your waist without trimming the junk out of your diet, regardless of how hard you exercise.

  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.  One of the best tricks for fat loss that I have my clients do is to eat a bag of romaine salad or spinach salad per day.  This trick makes losing fat so much easier because salad in that quantity acts as an appetite suppressant.  Also, the health benefits are amazing – lots of fiber and nutrients.  For dressing, I have my clients add lemon, pepper and balsamic vinegar.
  • Just say “No” to junk food.While this may seem obvious, your definition of “junk food” may need an alteration. Refined sugar is one of the biggest culprits in the junk food world-it is found in soft drinks, blended coffee drinks, cookies, cakes, packaged snacks, and other sinfully sweet treats. Processed fat is another monster. As a rule of thumb you can safely view all processed or refined items as junk food.
  • Eat more frequently.The key here is to never let your metabolism “crash” by going hours without eating. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to skip breakfast-as this is the meal that ‘breaks the fast’ that your body goes into each night. Stick with eating small meals every few hours and always avoid stuffing yourself.
  • Add protein to every meal.  This would include fish, turkey, eggs, whey protein shakes, chicken, or pork.  This tip is important for many reasons; 1) It takes protein to build muscle, 2) Protein is hard to break down causing a thermogenic effect – you consume less calories from a protein meal, 3) Protein is filling.


You should now understand why you are better off not wasting time on crunches.  While it is important to exercise your abs a couple of times a week, it is not a long term solution to achieve your best body.


Building Muscle: Is it better to lift faster or slower?

Let me first start by defining the topic, “lifting a weight faster or lifting slower” This article is referring to the speed at which a person raises a given weight.  For example, when a person is performing bench press that person might raise the weight in one second and lower the weight in one second.  In exercise physiology this is referred to as the tempo or the rate of speed a trainee lifts and lowers a given weight.

A common question I get from my clients is “what’s the point of lifting slow?”  Clients will say:

“He lifts fast” or “everybody else at the gym is doing it and that person is getting results.”

This topic has been an ongoing debate in exercise physiology.  Is it better to lift weights slowly or quickly…

A recent report in Sports Medicine.2007; 37: 225-265 supported the view that lifting slower is better than lifting faster or more explosive (Wernborn M, Augustsson J, Thomee R).  After reviewing a number of studies between 1970 and 2006, they reported the following:

“Based on the available evidence, we suggest that the time-tension integral is a more important parameter than the mechanical work output (force x distance).”  The “time-tension integral” is referring to the time under tension.  For example, if you lift a weight lowering it in 3 seconds and raising it in 3 seconds then the time under tension for that repetition is 6 seconds.  The study concludes that for muscle growth, the time under tension is more significant and important than lifting a weight quickly or explosively.

This conclusion really makes sense.  Lifting a weight slowly with control is much harder than lifting a weight quickly.  A common mistake I see at the gym are people who use a tremendous amount of momentum by lifting quickly.  Not only is this dangerous, but now exercise physiologist agree that this method is not as effective as lifting slower. Also, I just recently read a study in the Journal of Exercise Physiology Online which came to the same conclusion and added that trainees that lifted weights quickly were 30% more likely to be injured (Kuland DH. The Injured Athlete).

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends lifting a weight with a 3/3 tempo.  This means that a person would raise a weight in 3 full seconds and lower a weight in 3 full seconds.  Not only is this safer, but now science has come to the conclusion that it’s more effective.

Do you want to tone and shape your body faster?

One of the most common questions I receive from my clients on the personal training program is how can I get results faster.  Not many people realize how hard it is to gain muscle.  Most people working out can only gain about a half a pound of muscle up to 2 pounds of muscle per month.  Muscle is important because the more muscle you have the faster your metabolism – the faster your metabolism, the easier it is for you to get lean and lose fat.

Muscle is also important because it gives your body shape.  It is muscle the gives either a man or a women the “hour glass look” which basically means smaller waist and larger chest, back and leg muscles.  For a woman, the measurements would be the sexy 36-24-36 or for a man a 40-31-40 or for both somewhere in this range.  These types of measurements equate to a strong, healthy, and attractive appearance.  So how can you get results faster?

Some of the latest research over the past decade point to drinking a carbohydrate and protein shake before and after you workout.  In a study cited in the Journal of Physiology it stated that if you consumed a shake after your workout, you were much more likely to gain muscle compared to waiting 2 hours after training.  During this study, the group that consumed a shake after exercise increased quadriceps muscle fiber by 24% compared to the group that consumed a shake 2 hours later.  The group that consumed a protein/carb shake 2 hours later didn’t have any changes in muscle size.

In Dr. Warren Willey’s latest book, he states that in a study done in the American Journal of Physiology exercisers who receive a protein/cab shake immediately following exercise had three times greater protein synthesis and they burned more fat!!! He also points out that a study cited in the Journal of Physiology demonstrated that when a protein/ carb shake was given immediately after a workout, muscle size increased 8% and strength increased 15%.  That’s a huge gain!!

Dr. John Ivy and Dr. Robert Portman in their latest book “Nutrient Timing” suggest that “during the post exercise period specific nutrients maximize your recovery.  These nutrients include high-glycemic index carbs (maltodexatrin), protein (in a specific ratio), and certain amino acids”.  They go on to emphasize liquid meals because they absorb into your system faster compared to whole foods.  A liquid meal can be absorbed in 30 to 60 minutes compared to whole foods which can take up to 2 to 3 hours.  They suggest that the best ratio of carbs to protein in the post workout shake is either 3 to 1 or 4 to 1 and emphasize the importance of having this shake within 15 minutes.

The evidence is overwhelming.  Consuming a protein/carb shake within 15 minutes of a workout (strength training or interval training) will replenish glycogen stores which provides energy for your next training session, increase protein synthesis which makes muscles grow larger, and even speed up fat oxidation.

The bottom line is that if you want to burn more fat and gain muscle have a protein/carb shake within 15 minutes of a workout.  If you’re shopping at GNC make sure the shake has a 3 to 1 or a 4 to 1 ratio, carbs to protein.  Also, I have a shake on my site that I recommend to every one of my clients.  You can check that out at  It’s called the Dymatize Mega Gainer: Recovery Shake (You will not gain fat on this shake).

Also, if you feel like you need advice with your own training program, feel free to give me a call (310-720-8125) or email me  I’m more than happy to personally help you achieve your goal.   During our phone consultation I would customize a fitness program which would include outlining a nutritional plan and supplement protocol, and advice on the best cardio and strength training program based on your goals and lifestyle.

For more on strength training and interval training, click here: Strength Training and Weight Loss.

Good luck with your pursuit of a leaner and healthier body…


How long should you lift weights? 30 mins, 45 mins, or 90 mins?

For some, lifting weights for 90 minutes or more is a must.  Following this methodology a person tends to find themselves hitting a plateau and wondering “why am I not getting bigger or stronger?”  This question of how long you should lift weights is an extremely important topic.  For many who think that more is better will find the answer surprising.

So, what does the research say…

Well, before going into the research let’s look at several hormones that affect the way you look and feel:

Growth Hormones: Growth hormones can provide a number of measurable benefits such as enhanced energy, strength, improved bone density, an increase in muscle mass, and lower body fat levels.  Growth hormones are produced by the pituitary gland and can be stimulated during weight training and interval training.

Testosterone: Testosterone is primarily secreted in the testes of males and the ovaries of females. In both males and females, it plays an important role in health and well-being which includes enhanced libido, energy, increase muscle mass, lower body fat levels, rise in immune function, and protection against osteoporosis. On average, the adult male body produces about twenty to thirty times the amount of testosterone than an adult female’s body.  Testosterone can be specifically stimulated by weight training. To learn more about the relationship between testosterone and weight loss, read Testosterone & Weight Loss: Feel Fab in 2019 Part 6.

Cortisol: It is a vital hormone that is often referred to as the “stress hormone” as it is involved in the response to stress.  While this hormone plays a vital role in your body, elevated cortisol levels contribute to fat storage and slow recovery times.  Also, this hormone has an inverse relationship with testosterone and growth hormones.  In other words, if cortisol levels are too high, growth hormones and testosterone will drop.

So let’s get back to the question, “What is the optimal training time for weight lifting?”

The optimal training time is between 30 and 40 minutes (Natural Hormonal Enhancement by Rob Fagin).  After 40 minutes your cortisol levels begin to rise and testosterone and growth hormones begin to fall (Journal of Applied Physiology Vol. 33, No. 5, Nov. 72).  This continued rise in cortisol can lead to over training.  Over training is a state which is indicative of high cortisol levels, higher body fat percentage, less strength and energy.  As a person continues to train too long, they can begin to reduce their growth hormone and testosterone levels substantially by spending too much time lifting weights.  This advice would apply more to men than women.  Most women don’t lift enough weights even though the benefits aesthetically are enormous.  For men or women, lift weights 2 to 3 days a week for 30 to 40 minutes.  This does not include a 10 minute warm up and a 5 minute cool down.


Less is more

From a psychological perspective, having someone train 2 to 3 times a week for only 30 to 40 minutes is a much easier program to follow compared to programs of the past.  Research also shows that in order to produce maximum results, a trainee will only need to lift weights in the gym 2 to 3 times maximum.  Anything over this can also lead to over-training and stagnation.  The American College of Sports Medicine supports this view and states that 2 to 3 times a week is optimal for both the beginner and the athlete.   This is in stark contrast to previous beliefs.  Given this new evidence, the recommendations of more is better is beginning to turn into “Less is better”.  So, if you’re lifting weights too often cutback to 2 to 3 times a week.  If you feel like you have energy to do other activities, go ahead and perform cardio training to help you with your fat loss goals.

One other point I would like to make is that resistance training or weight lifting is extremely important in reshaping your body.  Cardio training can somewhat effect your hormones with respect to growth hormones and testosterone.  Weight lifting, on the other hand, dramatically stimulates and enhances growth hormones and testosterone.  The benefits of these two hormones are listed above.

Remember, these two power hormones are involved in fat loss and muscle gain.  Fat loss and muscle gain are synonymous with toning and shaping.  So, to maximize your results and to completely change your body make sure you add weight lifting to your fitness program.  It is truly the “fountain of youth” for both men and women.

Training Misconceptions

“Shawn, won’t I get too big if I strength train?”

This is the number one objection that women have with respect to strength training or lifting weights.  The answer is NO…

The rate at which you lose fat is far greater than the rate at which you can gain muscle.

Fact #1 You can gain only about .5 to 1.5  pounds of muscle per month.  Probably closer to .5 pounds of muscle.

Fact #2 You can lose about 4 to 8 pounds of fat, not water weight, per month.

If you do the math, you should still be losing body weight.  Take the maximums, a person loses 8 pounds of fat in a month, but gains 2 pounds of muscle in a month; that person would have lost 6 pounds of bodyweight.

If you’re not losing body weight, then you’re probably not eating right, or not doing enough cardio.

So, in time, your body should be shrinking, not getting “bigger”.  If you are eating properly and training smart, you should still be losing inches off your waist and hips.


“Women should do Pilates, Yoga, and Cardio to lose fat”

It seems that the weight-lifting room is 70% male and 30% female.  Why is this?  Shouldn’t it be split evenly?  Well, there are a few reasons why this occurs:

Some women don’t lift weights because they get tired of men hitting on them at the gym.

Some women report feeling intimidated by the men or feel intimidated by women who are in great shape.

Some are unfamiliar with the equipment.

Ok, this I can understand.  All three are legitimate concerns.

It can be annoying for a woman to consistently get hit on by men… Unfortunately, this is something you just have to put up with if you are a woman.  Guys try to leave the women alone *laughing to myself*…

Next point, woman, you can wear a hat and headsets. That’s kind of like a “Get Lost” sign for men.  I would never talk to a woman that had a hat and headsets on…

As far as being intimidated and unfamiliar with the gym itself, you might want to get one of the trainers at the gym to show you around.  Usually when you join a new gym, you receive a free session or two with a trainer, use them.  Have them show you how to use the equipment.  This way it won’t seem so foreign to you.  Once you start getting into a routine, you probably won’t have that feeling of intimidation any longer.  Also, if you still feel intimidated, hire a trainer.

Let’s go back to the initial misconception I was addressing, “Women should do Pilates, yoga, and cardio to lose fat”.  What is the best way to increase your metabolism? Build more muscle.  And the #1 way to increase muscle and shape your body is “strength training” (lifting weights).  Pilates and yoga are great, but it all comes down to your goals.  What is your goal?  Is it flexibility, spirituality, or simply just toning?

Pilates is good for flexibility and some muscle gain.  Yoga is great for flexibility, breathing, reducing stress and it can also be a spiritual experience.

But, what is your primary goal?  If it’s to lose fat and gain muscle (Tone), then the answer is and will always be strength training, diet, and cardio.  This combination will give you the fastest results in the least amount of time.


Spot Reduction

“If I do more abs exercises, can I lose abdominal fat?”

I’m sorry, the answer is a resounding NO.  Beware of the infomercials… They are lying or are just simply misleading.

It’s very simple, the fat that covers your abs is related to how much body fat you have on your body.  If your body fat is 30% you will never see your abs.  If your body fat is 12%, you will see your abs.  It’s that simple…  So, what is the best way to lose body fat?  Strength training, cardio, and diet.



“Men do arms and chest, women only need to workout legs…”

It seems that men have a bad tendency to have “Mirroritis”.  I define “Mirroritis” as working out only muscle that you can see in the mirror.  For men, it’s working out to much chest and arms and not enough legs and back.


Common Mistakes

Why don’t people succeed?

A few reasons:

  • Not keeping a workout journal or a food journal.
  • Never going to the point-of-exhaustion, or close to it.
  • Not increasing the weights every week (or every 2 or 3 weeks).
  • Training inefficiently
  • Not applying “change” to a workout routine. Change weight lifting and cardio workouts every 4 to 8 weeks.
  • Lack of sleep.  I would recommend sleeping 8 to 10 hours a night.  For some, I know that might sound like a lot.  But if you’re really serious about changing your life and your body, you will change your sleeping habits.  Sleep is critical.  Why?  When we sleep our body repairs itself which allows you to be 100% ready for the next workout.  When you workout at 80% or 50% due to lack of sleep, it will be extremely hard to lose fat and gain muscle compared to getting the proper amount of rest.
  • Not eating a health diet or simply eating way too many cheat meals.
  • Lack of cardio and strength training.
  • Making excuses…
Weight Lifting Tips

At least at this point, my research indicates that it’s better to perform full body workouts focusing on compound movements, 8 to 10 sets per workout, 1 to 3 times per week.  This is a radically new direction, at least for my own training practice.  I was initially inspired to change my opinion after reading Clarence Bass’s “Challenging Yourself” and various articles of Master Trainer by Richard Winett.  I have to say that I owe a lot to Dr. Winett.  He has brought to my attention many publications of interest which further support this view.

After further research, I came to the conclusion that this new way of training seemed to be the most effective and efficient way to train the body with respect to muscle growth and fat loss.  Even now the American College of Sports Medicine is embracing this view; this change is a radical departure for the old high volume (15 to 25 sets per workout) recommendations from the past.

I’m not the Albert Einstein of Exercise Physiology; I’ll be the first to admit that.  My approach to finding the best exercise program for my clients has more to do with looking at research studies, and less to do with interpretation of exercise physiology.   In other words, I determine if an exercise program is better than another by reviewing a research study that compares one exercise program to another.  For instance, “this program is better than that program based on our findings…” Or “this aspect of a program is proven given this research study.”  I’d much rather see a research study, then hear an opinion from an author who is interpreting exercise physiology.

In many ways I’m just a middle man.  A middle man between scientists and researchers and the general public.  So, my approach is to find institutions like the ACSM and/or various research studies, review their findings and relay that message in a simplified manner to the general public.

Let’s discuss for a second what much of the fitness world has to say about exercise programs.  In the world of body building, you can read authors (whom I have great respect for) who are well versed in Exercise Physiology, and from their findings I created an exciting new workout program that will deliver results.  This statement is typical for most of the fitness industry…  “My program is the best because (fill in the blank)….” And then they go into some complicated Physiology explanation…  Ok, that’s nice, but confusing, especially if you don’t have a PhD.

What I would prefer to see for my own clients is less interpretation of Exercise Physiology and more focus on research studies.  Remember, a research study compares two or more programs and concludes which program is the most effective.  When you see the same type of studies done over and over with the same results, then you have found at least an iota of truth in the world of fitness.  I prefer to have an open mind and to use this type of approach for many things in life.

So, if someone says that their program is the best.  My feeling is “Prove it”.  Let’s see a research study comparing your program to another type of exercise program.

“So Shawn, why should I follow your program?”

Good question…  Below are a variety of research articles that I believe you will find interesting.  If you’ve made it this far, not only do you want to know “How” to change your body, you also want to know “Why does this program change my body?”


Weight Lifting

One set vs. multiple sets per exercise: “I need to do 15 to 20 sets per workout and at least 3 sets per exercise.  Isn’t this the best for muscle growth?”

The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 148 -154, 1997

Goal: Test the effects of weight training with respect to volume (more sets or fewer sets per workout) on hormonal output and muscular size in experienced trainees.

Description and Findings: 35 Males with 1 to 4 years of experience with weight lifting were assigned to one of three training programs (one set, two sets, or four sets per exercise).  The program was as follows: six free weight exercises 4 times a week for 10 weeks.  They changed up their rep range every few weeks.  For instance, week 1- 4 (12 reps), week 5 – 7 (7 reps), and week 8 – 10 (9 reps).  3 minutes were used in between sets and all participants pushed themselves to the point-of-exhaustion for each set.

1st group performed 6 sets per workout<p>

2nd group performed 12 sets per workout<p>

3rd group performed 24 sets per workout

They concluded that the high volume ( the 3rd group, four sets per exercise for 24 sets) may result in a higher cortisol level and lower testosterone, which would suggest overtraining.

The 1st group, or the one set program (one set per exercise for 6 total sets per workout), resulted in an increase in muscle size similar to the other 2 programs (12 set and 24 sets) with a lower possibility of overtraining.


Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, Supplement 1998

Goal: To examine strength and size and to compare one set vs. three sets for 8 to 12 reps training 3 times a week for 5 exercises.  So, one group would train a total of 5 sets in a workout, the other group 15 sets in a workout.

Description and Findings:  The 5 exercises used were bench press, row, leg extensions, arm curl and leg curl.  The researches found that both groups showed almost the same increase in muscle growth.

“But Shawn, Advanced trainees need a lot more sets…”

The ACSM stated in its 2006 guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription that “currently there is little scientific evidence to indicate that the stimulus for improving muscular strength and muscular endurance in resistance-trained populations is different than for the untrained healthy adult populations.”  In other words, advanced trainees, do not need 20 sets per workout compared to a novice.  The only trainee that can perform 20 sets per workout 4 to 5 times per week and grow without overtraining is one who is either on steroids and/or has an unbelievable genetic recovery time.  The ACSM guidelines further recommend 8 to 10 sets per workout 2 to 3 times per week, full body workouts.  They go on to say that “the preponderance of evidence report similar response of muscular strength, hypertrophy, and muscular endurance between single and multiple set resistance training programs”.

Bottom Line: Performing fewer sets are much more time efficient, meaning less time in the gym with the same or better results, and a lower likelihood of overtraining.  Overtraining for athletes and recreational bodybuilders is one of the most common problems in fitness.

What are the BEST exercises to LOSE FAT?

This question is one of the most common questions I get at dinner parties and social events.  We are an over weight society that is looking for quick fixes as the answer to all of our problems –  and being over weight or obese is a HUGE problem.  Research has clearly shown a link between degenerative disease and a lack of exercise and poor diet.
There is hope.  Our body is an amazing machine and can completely change itself given the right training program and diet.  So let’s focus now on the best exercises to lose fat.

What makes an exercise the best?
The best exercise is the one that engages in the most amount of muscle.  This would include pull ups, bench press, squats and leg pres.  By engaging in large muscle groups like back and legs, a person can completely reshape their body.  One of the common mistakes that I see at the gym is the fact that people have a tendency to focus on small muscle groups like shoulders and arms.

The key to fat loss is adding more muscle to your frame.  The more muscle you have the faster your metabolism.  The less muscle you have the slower your metabolism.  Research shows that without weight training, after 25 years of age a person’s muscle mass will begin to decline.  This decline is the primary cause of fat loss as we age.  Why?  Simple because the less muscle you have the slower your metabolism.  Therefore, as we get older we eat approximately the same calories but yet have less muscle or a slower metabolism.
Now, let’s go back to the best exercises to lose fat.  By performing exercise like Squats and Pull ups, you will be stimulating large muscle groups.  The legs and back muscles are about 60% of our muscle mass.  By focusing on these groups, you will be stimulating the larger muscle groups causing an increase in muscle thereby increasing your metabolism.  This fact is true for both men and women.  It is just as important for a woman to perform strength training compared to a man.  The reason is that woman has a lot less muscle and testosterone compared to man.  This is one of the primary reasons why woman have a harder time losing body fat.  When men lift weights, because of extra testosterone they have a greater ability to gain muscle.

Because of the difference in metabolism between men and woman, it is critical that woman lift weights.  One of the common trends among females is that woman will pursue other modalities such as Yoga, Pilates, or running/cardio training.  While there are benefits to each modality listed, the best way to increase metabolism and muscle is to lift weights.  This time tested method has been proven by research as the best way to increase muscle mass thereby increasing metabolism.

I would advise using a combination of weight training and cardio to attain the best results.  As for weight training, learn the 4 basic exercises listed above.  If you are not familiar with them, please oo to my website to learn how to do these exercises – go to “exercise tips”.  Make sure that you go to the point of exhaustion which means that when performing an exercise you push yourself until you can’t lift another rep.  The point of exhaustion is what stimulates muscles to grow.  If you fall short of the point of exhaustion your body does not have much of a reason to add muscle.  

Four Basic Movements

When putting together an exercise program for yourself, I would advise 1 to 2 sets maximum for each exercise.  The ones that I’ve listed are:

  • Leg Press
  • Squat
  • Pull Up
  • Bench Press (Bar Bell or Dumbbell)For a long time in the fitness industry, the more is better approach was pursued by most in the fitness experts.  Research now shows that you only need to do one set per exercise to see maximum results.  Simply put, more sets are not better.  What is better is to perform “less sets” and to make sure that you go to the point of exhaustion.  If you’re interested in the research, please go to the “health article” section on my website.Diet and NutritionOf course even the best workout won’t help you lose fat if you haven’t optimized your diet.  On my website I have a free grocery list and sample meals.  The most important aspect to eating healthy is eating 5 times a day and have lots of fruits and veggies in your diet.  Fruits and veggies are better than fat loss supplements because they provide lots of nutrients and the extra fiber can act as an appetite suppressant.SummaryThese methods will help you to burn more calories, increase muscle, enhance metabolic rate, and will stimulate the production of more fat burning and muscle toning hormones. Of course, there is more involved to achieving your fitness goals. You need to consistently challenge yourself during workouts and take control of your eating habits.

Clear Your Mind
Exercise is the most natural way to cleanse your mind and emotions. When your emotions are flustered and your mind cluttered, you will find refreshment after a good workout. When done correctly, it is only during exercise that your mind actually rests.

Good luck with your pursuit of a leaner and healthier body.

Biography: Shawn Phillips is a well-known Holistic Personal Trainer in Los Angeles and Certified Nutrition Coach specializing in body sculpting, nutrition, lab testing, and exercise coaching. For a FREE consultation call him at (310) 720-8125.