A great body is made in the kitchen AND in the gym. What you eat and the nutritional products you use play a very big part in how much fat you carry anywhere on your body and how your body responds to exercise – whether you are trying to lose weight, tone up, gain muscle or just stay healthy.
The problem is, what nutritional products and protein powders should you be investing in? The majority are filled with unpronounceable chemicals and artificial sweeteners and we wouldn’t recommend them. We promote eating food as natural and unprocessed as possible.
Here is a list of our three favorite protein powders (ones we personally use) to take the guesswork out of what to buy. We trawled through Amazon to find the best prices and the best suppliers for you.
This content uses referral links. Read our disclosure policy for more info.
Nature’s Plus Source of Life Energy Drink is amazingly good. It tastes so great that even kids like to drink it and it’s packed full of vitamins and minerals that really boost energy levels through the roof (don’t drink it before going to bed). It’s been a staple in our home for nearly 12 years.
Standard Process is a brand known for its integrity and clean ingredients. It’s usually available only through doctors and nutritionists so we were very happy to find Standard Process Whey Pro Complete available at Amazon. It doesn’t have added flavor and there’s nothing artificial in it. This is the protein powder we use every day.
Optimum Nutrition Natural Vanilla Protein Powder is a healthier version of your classic high-protein mixes. It tastes good and blends well with whatever fruit you like to mix in your shakes. It’s also great on its own over oatmeal or blended in water. It comes in a giant pack.
Here’s a classic question people ask of personal trainers: “What exercise will help me get rid of the fat on my belly?” (while lifting up a shirt and squeezing the offending piece of flesh).
The answer: “There is no one exercise that will get rid of your belly fat. You can do as much ab work as you like, but if you don’t also change how you’re eating, that fat will stay there no matter how awesome your abdominal muscles may be.”
So, get busy and fix up your diet while you continue with regular workouts to get the body your want.
Just like anyone else, we come across lots of fitness-related gadgets and tools. However, because we are personal trainers with plenty of experience, we get to road test most of them and so we know first hand which gadgets and tools are actually good value, and which ones are a waste of time.
Take the foam roller, for example. There are hundreds of foam roller suppliers around and most of their products are, well, pretty useless. We know because we’ve tried out many of them. There are a few foam rollers that are worth buying and will last a long time These are the ones we buy and would recommend to you.
Below are some fitness-related tools and products we can recommend. Each one is linked to an Amazon page for your convenience, should you wish to go ahead and buy it. Let us know if there is a product you would like our advice about.
This content contains referral links. Read our disclosure policy for more info.
Trigger Point Therapy Foam Roller. It’s worth the investment because it works really well and is virtually indestructible.
Perform Better Mini Bands. These are great for lower body work. We use this brand.
Gaiam Stability Ball. There is so much you can do on a stability ball – it even doubles up as a decent office chair!
Manduka Pro Deluxe Yoga Package. This is a high-quality yoga mat with carry bag and a yoga block and a stretch strap for those who want the very best.
Gaiam Yoga Mat. A basic yoga/exercise mat. More economical than the Manduka, it’ll do the job.
OPTP Stretch Out Strap with Instruction Booklet. We LOVE these and so do our clients.
Mandala Massage Balls. These are wonderful for self massage techniques.
These are a few of our staples. We can vouch for the quality because these are the things we use ourselves.
If you told me a year ago that I would be eating earth right now I would have rolled my eyes. I’ve heard of just about everything – some new mothers eat their placenta, lots of people here in Los Angeles eat only raw food, many people eat only vegetable-based food, but eating earth?
To be specific, earth in this context is actually diatomaceous earth (DE) and I came across it when an old friend told me how much more energetic he’s been feeling since he started taking it daily. Before this conversation, I thought DE was only something used for swimming pool filters.
Being someone curious about anything that helps improve health and well-being for myself, my family and the people I work with, I did some research and discovered some very interesting and exciting things about DE.
What is Diatomaceous Earth?
Diatomaceous earth is made up of fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae. It comes as a fine white powder and it is made up of 80 to 90% silica. There are two types – food grade (safe for human consumption) and industrial grade ( NOT safe for human consumption). While food grade DE is safe to consume, DE of any kind is not safe to breathe.
Some wonderful qualities of diatomaceous earth:
- At a microscopic level, DE looks like a bunch of hollow cylinders with holes punched in the sides (see the picture above)
- Because DE has a strong negative charge, when it’s taken internally it attracts and absorbs positively-charged toxins and pathogens into its cylinder – things like viruses, pathogenic fungi and bacteria, heavy metals, prescription drug residues, pesticides, parasites, radiation – and sweeps them out of our bodies
- DE is very hard (almost as hard as diamonds) and each microscopic piece has sharp edges. It acts to scrub away the packed-on residues we have in our digestive tract and organisms like parasites in our intestines are sliced up and killed then flushed out when we go to the loo
- Remember how DE is 80 to 90% silica? Well, life cannot exist without silica. It’s essential for building healthy bones, teeth, skin, hair and nails. You could call it the beauty mineral and you wouldn’t be wrong. It also helps to strengthen tendons and joints, so it’s very important for active people
And that’s not all, use diatomaceous earth as a safe insecticide
- Do you have ants? Sprinkle some dry DE (wet DE doesn’t work well) along ant trails and wherever they are entering your home. The fine powder absorbs fats from the waxy outer layer of the ants’ exoskeletons causing them to dehydrate and die. We used it very successfully in our home this summer. Toxin-free ant bait, yes please!
- You can use it as a treatment for lice and fleas (it works the same way as in the case of ants), just make sure not to breathe it
Two Simple Ways to Take Diatomaceous Earth
The first is the way I started with DE. Put a tablespoon of DE into a glass, add water, mix well and drink it down quickly. It tastes like chalk so you might want to chase it down with some extra water.
Here is a much more delicious way to take DE:
The Earth Smoothie
1/4 cup frozen berries
1 cup almond, rice or hemp milk
1 tablespoon diatomaceous earth
1 tablespoon flax seed (linseed) meal
1 scoop of your favorite protein powder, I use Standard Process Whey
Place all ingredients into your blender. Blend on high. Serve in a glass and enjoy right away.
Below is a link to the diatomaceous earth we have been using (from Amazon,com). If you get the 20lb box they offer free shipping.
If you enjoyed this article, get email updates (it’s free).
By now you’ve probably heard a lot about the dangers of inactivity, specifically sitting for long periods of time. Between cars, chairs and desks, Americans spend about half their lives sitting down. The World Health Organization has recognized physical inactivity as the fourth biggest killer on the planet, it even beats out obesity.
Even if you exercise regularly, the time you spend sitting is detrimental to your health. Like smoking, it has an effect on you though you may be doing other things in your life that are very healthy, like eating good food and working out.
If sitting is the new smoking and you have to spend long hours at your desk to make a living, how are you supposed to do your job AND stay healthy?
One solution is to buy a desk that can raise and lower to allow you to stand or sit. A very good one is the NextDesk Terra if you have $1500 to spare on a new desk and you’re OK with tossing out the one you’ve already got. Another solution is to hack one together using IKEA shelving, this might cost somewhere around $80 and might look acceptable (depending on your handiwork and ability to work around IKEA directions) but you’ll be stuck with only one height choice – standing.
I came across another solution, less expensive than the NextDesk Terra and more useful than the IKEA desk hack, it allows you to keep your old desk and gives you the choice of variable desk heights so you can stand to work, or sit if you want to. It’s the VARIDESK and it goes right on top of your existing desk. It raises and lowers very quickly to give plenty of height options and if you get an anti-fatigue floor mat to go with it, your feet will thank you (ask any chef).
No matter what you end up doing about your work space, simply setting a 20-minute timer to remind yourself to get up and move around throughout your day will help your heart and mind, and improve your chances of living a longer life.
If you enjoyed this article, get email updates (it’s free).
As a personal trainer, it’s common for people to ask me, “What’s the best exercise for weight loss?”. Most people don’t get too specific about what they mean by weight loss – the body is made up of different tissues, including skin, fat, muscle and bone – but usually they mean fat loss – we don’t get too many people who want bone or muscle loss.
The honest answer to the question, “What is the best exercise for weight loss?” is simple – there is no ONE best exercise and exercise alone isn’t enough, you also need to reduce the amount of food being consumed in order to reduce the amount of body fat you’re carrying around.
Why Exercise is Vital for Fat Loss Success
People who are physically trained, meaning they work out three to five times a week doing both cardiovascular (or aerobic) training as well as resistance training (using weights, machines and body weight) are better able to use and break down fat than people who are unfit and who do not train regularly. The muscle cells of regular exercisers are more efficient at using the energy from body fat to fuel their activities. This tells us that in order to get your body to a point where it easily uses its fat stores, you have to work out regularly and consistently – not for a couple of days or weeks in a year, but every week. There is no such thing as a “quick fix” when it comes to increasing physical fitness and creating a body that can burn fat efficiently.
The Role of Resistance Exercise in Fat Loss
Resistance training helps to preserve muscle mass. Muscle is the most metabolically active tissue of the body – it’s the “workhorse” tissue and uses most energy, so it makes sense that you would want to preserve as much of it as possible. Resistance training also results in calorie burning during exercise as well as afterwards when the muscle tissue repairs itself (known as “after burn”).
Cardio to Torch Body Fat
Cardiovascular training will really burn calories while you exercise. Changing the type of cardiovascular exercise you do will help you avoid overuse injuries. Examples are: jogging, cycling, elliptical training, rowing, swimming and so on.
Stretching Makes It All Possible
Flexibility training (stretching) doesn’t have much of an effect on your ability to burn calories, but it’s important because it supports both cardiovascular and resistance exercise – when the muscles are overly tight you will not be able to perform other exercises properly.
If you are honestly interested in improving your muscle mass and reducing excess body fat, you will need to commit to regular and effective exercise as well as improve your diet. How do you ensure your exercise is effective? You get help from a qualified and experienced trainer who cares enough to do a full fitness analysis that includes posture, strength, cardio capability, and flexibility as well as a complete body composition analysis.
Email Rudi if you are interested in getting your fat-loss questions answered with a free, obligation-free fitness consultation.
If you enjoyed this article, get email updates (it’s free).
Here is a simple infographic to give you an idea of how many calories you burn doing various activities. Keep in mind these figures are for people who weigh 196 pounds and 164 pounds – you will burn fewer calories if you are lighter and more if you are heavier.
Looking for a unique healthy breakfast that doesn’t include cereal, sugar or toast? I created these yummy Pepped-up Sweet Potato Pancakes one day when I had some leftover baked sweet potatoes and I felt like something more substantial for breakfast than eggs on their own but I didn’t want to indulge in the empty calories of toast to fill me up. They are colorful, gluten-free and easy to make. I hope you enjoy them.
This recipe makes 2 servings
Ingredients for Pepped-up Sweet Potato Pancakes
1 medium baked sweet potato, skin on (I usually bake several sweet potatoes at a time and have them ready to use in the refrigerator)
3 whole eggs
2 tablespoons almond meal (you can make this yourself by popping almonds into a blender and pulsing them until they look like course flour)
2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese (I used light feta from Trader Joe’s but any good feta will do)
A couple of handfuls of arugula (rocket lettuce)
Crack the eggs into a bowl and beat them with a fork, add the almond meal then chop the sweet potato and mash it into the egg mix. Stir until everything is well combined. Stir in the feta and arugula.
Heat a frying pan to a medium heat (not too hot or your pancakes will burn), use a little olive oil or a smear of butter then spoon in the sweet potato pancake batter to create cakes about 4 inches in diameter (too large and they are difficult to flip). Flip them once they are firm on the bottom and make sure they cook on both sides.
Serve with a little low fat Greek yogurt, season as you see fit. Delicious!
Here’s the back story of how I came up with my Super Powered Raw Oatmeal recently.
While on a quest to go sugar-free and wheat-free I faced the problem of what to eat for a fast breakfast that didn’t include bread of any kind. I wanted something healthy, organic, and preferably uncooked. I also wanted a healthy balance of protein, fiber, carbs and fats. The other very important factor; it had to be fast food. Fast food in terms of taking very little time to prepare, because we usually have about ten minutes to eat in the mornings.
I found what I was looking for:
Super Powered Raw Oatmeal
This recipe makes 8 servings so you only have to put it together once, then store it in the refrigerator for use at breakfast time throughout the week.
2 cups organic steel cut oats
2 cups organic light coconut milk
1 tablespoon organic chia seeds
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 cup dried cranberries
1 scoop whey powder, or other protein powder depending on your preferences (I use Standard Process Whey protein Complete). You could substitute this for 1/2 cup of almond, hemp, rice or other milk
1/8 cup raw almonds
Make the super powered raw oatmeal the night before you need it. Put all of the ingredients (not including the toppings) in a glass container and mix well. You want to make sure the spices are well distributed. Put a lid on the container (the snap-lock containers work really well for this) and pop it in the fridge.
In the morning, use a butter knife and divide the super powered raw oatmeal into 8 equal servings and then spoon out your serving. Add the toppings (you can get inventive here, these are just my suggestions) and enjoy your healthy fast food breakfast.
With protein powder it is about 230 calories. With almond milk instead of protein powder it is about 220 calories. Not only healthy, but low in calories as well.
This is part 4 in a series of 5 interviews with bodybuilder Tomas de la Milera. He is a 51 year old bodybuilder with a classic physique like Frank Zane. Peek into his world as he prepares for competition and he shares what it takes to be a natural bodybuilder.
Dieting for competition
Tracey: Run me through a typical muscle-building day, food-wise! You’re getting ready for a competition now, so you’re building, you’re trying to strip down some fat. So right now, what’s your typical food like? Starting in the morning, how do you eat?
Tomas: This is what I do in the morning, because from my understandings and from what I’ve read, and then also what I’ve benefited from (because you can read something and it might just not work for you).
In the morning when I get up, I immediately hit some carbohydrates because my body has been through a fast (when we get to breakfast, what it actually means is “break” the “fast”), so I’ll have, let’s just say for right now, I’ll start off with a banana.
I can’t get rid of coffee! I’m Cuban, so I was raised on coffee and now I have to be a little bit more careful with the cream because I love the cream. But less and less tablespoons, I’ll do about 4 tablespoons of hazelnut cream. I’ll have 8oz of blackberries or strawberries and then I’ll have three eggs with it. And what I do is have my fruit first, then I wait about 20-30 minutes and I’ll have my protein. Reason being, just to get the sugar pumping in my body, fill it up and then moving into the protein.
Then in the afternoon (I’m basically a three-meal a day guy, I don’t need 5-6 meals even though I’ve done that), I’ll have a 3oz steak with 2 carrots and half an onion, and I’ll have a tablespoon of avocado oil and medium-chain triglyceride oil, which is a supplement. Then I’ll have, maybe, half a tablespoon of saturated fat, actually saturated fat and consume that.
That really holds me for a good, long time! I’m looking at about 3 ½ to 4 hours in-between meals. Then pretty much, especially when it comes to getting ready for a show, you really start being very specific about the foods and your foods become very monotonous.
I basically follow pretty much the same routine. At dinner I’ll have a 3oz steak, I’ll have 2 carrots and I’ll have a half an onion. Because that way you don’t have to be constantly thinking about it. You could add, if you have the time, or you get to the point where it’s just like, “Ok, I’m just going to eat this and move on,” especially when it comes to shredding days before a show.
Tracey: Ok good! So this is another question about food. When you’re cutting up, do you keep eating the same stuff? How do you eat when you’re cutting?
Tomas: No, what starts happening is, as I start cutting up, I get really into the calorie intake. I get to a point where it becomes a visual thing. And what I do is (and of course this comes with experience. It’s taken me over 4 years just to get to this level and I’m not even at the level yet of really understanding), when it comes to diet, I’ll start using the mirror and I’ll start looking at myself and I’ll start manipulating.
It gets to a point that I start saying, “Well, let me drop my carbs a little bit here,” and then I’ll start playing that for a couple of days and if it’s working, I’ll keep that. Then maybe I’ll have to cut a little more of the saturated fats or maybe increase the saturated fats and decrease the monounsaturated fats.
So the best thing to actually do during that whole period is to actually write the stuff down and that way you have it for future reference.
What’s very interesting is that our bodies change yearly! So what works for me one year, might not work for me the next. But it gets to a point where it’s to calories, and you start leaning out. It gets to the point that you might have to manipulate and see where it goes by removing a little bit of this, a little bit of that and see where you actually end up.
If you enjoyed this article, get email updates (it’s free).
This is part 3 in a series of 5 interviews with bodybuilder Tomas de la Milera. He is a 51 year old bodybuilder with a classic physique like Frank Zane. Peek into his world as he prepares for competition and he shares what it takes to be a natural bodybuilder.
Tracey: How much cardio is needed to burn fat?
Tomas: You know that all depends on the individual. I think it depends on the person’s metabolism. I think that people can actually, that for me has been a journey. I’ve found that sometimes less cardio helps and sometimes more cardio helps when it comes to bodybuilding. That is a very metabolic question. I think every individual, like in any other form of training, I think through hit and miss a person finds out for themselves how much cardio is needed. But cardio, in the bodybuilding world, in relationship to fat, lean mass, we look more at heart rate. Keeping your heart rate lower because we want to burn more of the calories through resistance training and more of the fat burning, so you’re looking at there being a little bit more of walking, not so much sprinting or running.
Tracey: Do you stretch at all?
Tomas: You know I should stretch more. It’s so important. I’ve been blessed by not stretching enough, by not having any injuries. I did have surgery about 7 months ago, but that was more of my experience with football in the ‘70s when I was a kid. I should! I would focus more, if I was to address it to an individual, I would say, “Please put your time in,” because it does help in preventing injuries. But I don’t do it enough, no.
Tracey: Give me your number one best exercise for building each of these: Legs?
Tomas: Legs? For building legs, it’s so interesting because I just came across this, for building strength in the legs, can’t beat squats.
But when it comes to squatting, your back needs to strengthen before your legs get stronger. So that’s a pretty much overall exercise. When it comes to just legs in general, in the bodybuilding world, I love the hack squat. You can’t beat the hack squat. You can work with the leg placement, it really isolates the legs. It takes away the pressure, if it’s done correctly, from your lower back. So leg building, in a bodybuilding sense, I love the hack squat.
Tracey: Ok cool! What about back?
Tomas: Back? You know it’s funny because when I started lifting when I was very young, I developed a very big back. That was one of my main muscles that I worked on. Rows! I love rows, standing rows. Bringing it up and down. That’s all I would do and I developed an incredible thickness in the back and width simply by rowing.
Tracey: So in the lats?
Tomas: Yeah in the latissimus, yeah, because what I did is I would just come lower and the body coming lower isolated a little more of the lats. You know, as you come up at like a 45° angle, you’re getting more of the trapezius and the rhomboid area. But just by placing my body and row, row, row I just, because you know that’s all I knew. You know what; it was a benefit because I really benefited from it.
Tracey: Cool! Chest?
Tomas: Chest? You know it’s interesting because times are changing, of course we know that we have three types of chest. We’ve got the upper, middle and lower. But you can’t beat a bench press, incline and decline press and the combination of them so you can isolate the individual parts of the chest. And also free weights! Free weights. Because then you get the stabilizing muscles.
Tracey: Good! Shoulders?
Tomas: Shoulders? Shoulder press. I get on shoulder press, shoulder press, I hit the shoulder press and I work it. Of course we can get into isolations like lateral raises or frontal raises. But the shoulder press, especially if you’re just starting the body building, that’s the way to go. Go with compound movements in the shoulder press, it’s definitely a compound movement.
Tracey: Good! Abs?
Tomas: Abs? Sit-ups! I’ve been so traditional. Sit-ups, leg raises, there you go! But not to ignore the obliques, the external and internal obliques and also not to ignore the lower back. Which, you know, dead lifts are great for lower back. So you can do some back arches. When I hear abdominal, I think of the whole mid-section instead of just the rectus abdominis.
Tracey: Okay good! Biceps?
Tomas: Biceps? Curls! Curls! And change up your free weight, change it wider, you can go in more and just curls! You know, because it also incorporates a little bit of other parts of your body, like your back and the stabilization in your legs. You can do them standing, if you were to just start off because we want to get the body to work as a whole as much as possible. In bodybuilding, you eventually start isolating, but if you’re just starting in bodybuilding, its best to get some other parts of your body in conjunction with that.
Tracey: Okay and last one! Triceps?
Tomas: Triceps! I like, for triceps, I like a close-grip bench press! I really do. Because I believe, especially starting triceps, you want to build that thickness, defining a tricep later on with maybe triceps extensions or scull crushers. But I think a good start would basically be a close-grip bench press.
If you enjoyed this article, get email updates (it’s free).