“Are Box Jumps Necessary? Seven Variations for Beginner and Advanced Athletes”

box jumps eat shins

RIP shins

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Box jumps are a form of plyometrics developed to improve explosiveness and speed but the term “plyometric” is actually used to describe any jump training. Plyometrics translate well to improved squatting, sprinting, and even throwing – not to mention a ton of real world applications. The question really isn’t if box jumps are useful – we really need to ask if there are alternatives that are easier on your shins!

Here is a list of variations and alternatives you can do that won’t leave you clutching your ankles for dear life:

Beginner Movements & Modifications

1. Step-ups.  I do step-ups on occasion but let’s be real here; they are not a plyometric movement at all.  That said, they’re a great remedial variation.  Some WOD’s don’t lend themselves to the other options and when everyone else is on a box doing step ups might make some sense.

2. Foam box “jump-overs”.  At Regionals this year they had soft plyoboxes for the “box jump overs” but at $285 to $320 a pop that can get expensive quick and I have yet to see a gym in real life have these.  A more common alternative is to stack up foam mats that people use for things like sit ups or deck squats. Even though you need a lot of them to have an adequate “alternative” box at our gym people don’t tend to use them like that. Also because they are typically bigger 4 people can use them at a time pretty comfortably. More importantly, they’re safe on your shins!  If you miss, you don’t have to go to the hospital.


Rogue foam plyo boxes

3. PVC paralette bar jumps.  I don’t know why these aren’t more popular.  You can adjust the height on most of these.  They aren’t great for testing how high you can jump, but they’re great for WOD’s and once again, there’s more room for error compared to a wooden box.


DIY paralette bars

4. Tuck Jumps.  If you are looking for something explosive and risk-free, tuck jumps are where it’s at.

To perform a tuck jump, jump as high as you can, tuck your legs into your chest, then extend them and land.

We use them mostly for warm ups but of you don’t have the implements I mentioned earlier, it’s a good modification to consider.

Advanced Movements

5.  Seated box jumps.  Jumping from a seated position forces you to use dynamic movement to overcome static resistance, resulting in greater peak force production.  Of these advanced movements, this is probably the easiest on your body.  Games athlete Dani Horan demonstrates below:  

6.  Rebound box jumps.  This is basically where you jump onto the box, jump off, land with knees slightly bent, and immediately rebound back up – you spend almost no time on the ground, and the quicker you rebound the better.  Check out the video below of Dani performing a 30″ rebound box jump:

This is a form of the Russian “shock method” defined by Yuri Verkhoshansky.  It’s differs from plyometrics in that the movements are executed in quick succession – landing and immediately rebounding generates a shock to the muscles and tendons that develops greater elasticity and agillity.

It’s a deceptively athletic movement that requires a good strength base to perform safely.  If you are a beginner and you like the way your Achilles tendon functions at the moment, you might want to avoid this movement.  If however the difference between you making it out of your region and onto the Games is the difference between whether or not you are getting back up on the box quick enough then it might be something you would want to consider. For most of us, the risk isn’t worth the minimal reward.

7.  Depth jumps.  Depth jumps are the pinnacle of explosive jump training – they’re the original shock method.

To perform a depth jump, first stand on a box.  Next, lead with one foot and drop off the box.  Land with bent knees and immediately rebound as high as possible.  Don’t pause on the ground – springboard off the balls of your feet!

Gradually work your way up to taller boxes to impart greater forces to your body – there’s a great benefit to your performance if you can get good at these but please, start off with shallow depths for your safety.

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Challenge Winner Liz’s Eat To Perform Story


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Liz lost 5 lbs. of fat and gained almost 2 lbs. of lean mass in 3 months without restricting her food intake or choices.  She even had some alcohol! (Shocking eh?)  This is what she had to say about her experience with our latest challenge, which she placed first in!  

“When I first saw Eat To Perform pop up on Facebook, I was skeptical. I started searching through the posts on Facebook and their website and decided “why not try something new”, if I didn’t like it, then I would stop.

I haven’t looked back once.

Before ETP, I ate 80/20 Paleo and would see some results when I would do Paleo challenges, but my results hit a plateau. In fact I started to gain weight. When I saw a program where eating carbs was ok and drinking alcohol was not out of the question anymore, I said “I think I can give this a try.”

It took a little while to get adjusted to eating such a significant amount of carbs and when to eat them on work out days. Anytime I had a problem with finding ways to eat enough, I turned to the ETP Forum and asked for advice, which was always helpful and readily available to me. It was a great help to have the support from a community all working towards eating better.

Once I got used to it and I actually got enough carbs (which took a few weeks), I started feeling the results of ETP. I began to not feel tired and hungry when I would WOD. I currently work out 3-4x per week. I saw all of my lifts begin to improve, while still maintaining a Paleo lifestyle. I was just able to add a couple of non-Paleo, but gluten-free options to my diet and started seeing and feeling the change. The results began  to show in my body composition at about the month and a half mark. I learned how to eat for competitions and for my training for the half marathon that I did in September.

This has to be one of the greatest changes I have ever made in my diet and lifestyle. I couldn’t imagine going back to my old way of life.”


BOD POD before/after

“Mastering Double Unders (For Everyone)” by Dani Horan


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Dani Horan (in the video below) gave us a few quick tips on double unders that have helped her master the movement.  It’s important to master singles first, and you should probably invest in your own rope so you can adjust the length to your preference.  Don’t become discouraged if you’re struggling with doubles – just give some of these suggestions and cues a try and you’ll get there before you know it.

  1. Relaxed shoulders, quick wrists.  Minimize the involvement of your shoulders in the movement.
  2. Practice singles. A lot of athletes have had success with the alternating “single/double/single/double” drill.
  3. Keep your arms at your sides near your hips, hands slightly in front of you.
  4. Pick a square to practice in so you’re not jumping all over the place and find a focal point looking forward.
  5. Practice frequently.  The more you do something, the better at it you’ll get.
  6. Execute small jumps just as the rope strikes the ground.
  7. RELAX and develop a consistent rhythm.
  8. Maintain a hollow position, no breaking at the knees.
  9. Toes up.

Danielle is sponsored by RxSmartGear who make custom ropes – she uses a spiral handle, 8’7 ultra gray cable.

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“Five Tips To Help You Have Your Cake And STILL See Results” by James Barnum


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These are some rules to live by when you’re dieting.  It may seem like common sense to some, but if you’re struggling to find a balance between eating the typical “clean” foods and enjoying a treat here and there, keep these tips in mind – they could make a big difference in your results.

  1. Understand that nutrition requirements are largely individual.  Your plan will look different than someone else’s plan.  Everything from your food preferences, as well as how your body responds to changes in energy balance, macronutrient splits, how often you eat, even the kind of job you work must be considered when setting up a new approach to nutrition.  Customization is very powerful.Some people benefit from treating themselves more frequently, even on a diet, because their energy requirements are so high or their appetites are so low that it’s easy to undereat.  Highly palatable foods can help stimulate your appetite and make eating enough Calories easier.  That isn’t to say that you should subsist entirely on pizza and cake, but if there’s room, why not?
  2. You need to be specific.  It’s very difficult to get your body to respond to more than one stimulus at a time.  You need to be specific about what you want to accomplish over the course of several weeks and months; set realistic goals and don’t try to do everything at once.  If you want to lose body fat, make it a concrete goal: lose 10 lbs. of fat in 10 weeks.  Want to gain muscle?  Dedicate the next six months to gaining 10 lbs. of lean mass.  Once you accomplish a goal, move on to the next one.

  3. The sum is more important than the whole.  Don’t view foods in isolation.  Having a glass of red wine or a bar of dark chocolate here and there won’t hurt; in contrast, a whole bottle of wine is probably not a great idea!  Everything you eat has a synergistic effect on your results so it’s important that you don’t miss the forest for the trees and get wrapped up in the minor details.  A balanced approach is more often than not the best path forward.  There only a handful of scenarios where you shouldn’t allow some flub factor so life can proceed as normal.  Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater; take each day as it comes.
  4. Self-monitoring is a must.  This goes beyond “listening to your body,” which is OK once you settle into a routine but leaves something to be desired when that routine changes.  Whether you’re adding/removing a food from your plan, increasing/decreasing your Calories, tweaking your macros, experimenting with peri-workout nutrition, or taking a new supplement, you need to monitor how it affects you.  Utilize the tools at your disposal: food logging, performance assessments, and body composition tests, to track progress and modify behaviors systematically.
  5. There are no shortcuts.  Changes take weeks, months, even years to show up.  Nothing happens overnight, so approach every new journey with the intent to finish; make this a lifelong commitment.  Resist the urge to completely change your routine when things don’t seem to be working; instead, make small, gradual changes over time to allow your body to adapt.  Enjoy yourself at least once in a while, because no – eating only clean foods will NOT speed up your results.  Depriving yourself won’t make you leaner.  

We have a special offer for the end of 2014 that bundles all four of our books – including Metabolic Flexibility for Fat Loss – with a Science Lab membership (one on one training from Eat To Perform coaches). Get reliable information and trusted guidance from our community of experts! For more info, click the button below!
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“Five Questions A Good Nutrition Coach Will Ask You” by Paul Nobles

Personal trainerWe have a special offer for the end of 2014 that bundles all four of our books – including Metabolic Flexibility for Fat Loss – with a Science Lab membership (one on one training from Eat To Perform coaches). Get reliable information and trusted guidance from our community of experts! For more info, click the button below!
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Coaching is a science and an art.  The rapport between client and coach is very important, but some people are better at selling themselves than they are at actually producing results.  I put together this list of basic questions I ask every client I work with, and I firmly believe that if your coach isn’t asking the same questions, you need to consider working with someone else.

1.  ”How much do you weigh?”

The scale gets a bad rap, but weighing yourself before you start working with a nutrition coach is completely necessary.  Skinfold readings and circumference measurements are all helpful metrics to use when judging body composition changes but knowing how much you weigh is the precursor to determining your optimal Caloric intake – how much you need to eat to maintain, lose, or gain weight effectively.  If your new coach doesn’t ask for at least a ballpark figure before giving you advice, they’re shooting fish in a barrel.

Now, some people are very sensitive about their weight, which is completely understandable.  Daily fluctuations in weight can be disappointing at best and frightening at worst.  I’m not suggesting that you have to weigh yourself every single day (although I do) but once a week can’t hurt.  Whether your goal is to lose body fat or put on some muscle, hopping on the scale once in a while is going to give you the information you need to determine if things are headed in the right direction so you can make changes to the program.

As a general rule, if your weight increases significantly within a short period of time, it’s probably fat.  Building muscle is a slow process.  Similarly, when you lose weight too fast it’s probably not fat – it’s more likely you’re just losing water weight.  As a general rule, one pound of weight loss/gain a week tends to be good rule of thumb.  There are extreme examples where you can get away with being a bit more aggressive but unless you weigh over 250 pounds as a female or 300 pounds as a male, one pound a week will serve you quite well.

2.  ”How much do you eat now?”

This is the first thing I usually want to know when I begin working with someone: “How much are you eating now?”  Look, I get it – you have fat to lose and you probably think you are over eating, but guess what?  You are going to have to prove to me that you’re eating too much because in my experience, most people are on the complete opposite end of the spectrum.

If your nutrition coach isn’t looking at food logs with specific Calorie and macronutrient breakdowns that represent your way of eating before you begin the program, they are pretty much wasting your time.  Think about it like this:  if your estimated daily energy requirements sit around 2500 Calories, but you’re only eating 1300 a day right now, you probably don’t want to bump things up by 1200 Calories overnight.  You’ll feel bloated and probably put on a little bit of fat.  Gradually increasing Calories is the way to go!  This also applies to losing body fat – if your coach puts you on a 2000 Calorie diet assuming that it will result in a 500 Calorie deficit, but you’re only eating 2000 Calories to begin with…you aren’t gonna lose any body fat!

Now of course this doesn’t mean that you need to count Calories for the rest of your life but if you want specific results, your coach should be collecting food logs and basing their suggestions off of that information.

3.  ”What do you do for exercise/how active are you?”

Activity level is important for a lot of reasons but when you are trying to determine the amount and type of food a client is supposed to be eating, you should have something to base it on.  In my opinion, the Harris Benedict formula or the Katch Mcardle formula (assuming you know the clients body fat percentage) are some of the best starting points in terms of understanding how much a client should be eating.

As an example, if someone kills themselves in the gym six days a week but they’re only eating 1700 calories a day, a hypocaloric diet isn’t the best place to start.  Having them eat less is just going to push them closer and closer to injury.  Remember that leaning out/reducing body fat percentage can be accomplished two different ways:  by addition and by subtraction.  In other words, you can either add muscle or lose body fat.  A lot of coaches only know how to do things one way – they only know how to subtract, and that simply isn’t the right way to go all the time.

Building lean muscle goes hand in hand with optimizing the fat loss process, so you can’t always be dieting!  In fact I would argue that any nutrition coach that isn’t honest with you about that should be fired immediately.  Which brings me to my next point…

4.  “Do you understand that this won’t be a linear process?”

I might argue that the myth of linear progress is one of the most damaging ideas circulating in the fitness industry today.

Here’s a common scenario:

  • Person starts dieting and makes minor changes that initially show great results.  They quit eating M&M’s and drinking sugared pop, and they start exercising.  It’s amazing how dropping 500 or more Calories of useless, empty food can help things along.
  • Next, they work their way up to running 3 miles a day, start eating mostly meats and veggies…But they never quite get “there”.  Progress slows down and they’re convinced that they must be doing something wrong because they saw an ad where someone went from “flabby” to “sick pack” in 28 days.  Despite the fact that they’ve made great progress eating better and exercising, they’re convinced that they’re simply not working hard enough.  They need to go to the extreme.
  • That’s when they meet “Major Pain” and head off to “boot camp”.  Major Pain doesn’t know how much you are eating – he/she just assumes you’re overdoing it and that you need to get up off your butt.  Frankly, fat loss isn’t their game.  If they knew what they were doing, they would know that “extreme exercise” without respect for energy  balance is a seriously flawed methodology.

Most people never make it past the boot camp phase without something going wrong.  They either quit because the extreme activity and over-the-top “motivation” don’t work, or they get injured and turn away from fitness forever.  The people that make it often haven’t learned a thing about how to reach their fat loss goals; they just got lucky.  They probably won’t keep that streak running for very long.

Simply put, the fitness industry sells fat loss as if it’s a brute force endeavor from point A to point B that requires endless detoxes and fat burning workouts.  The problem is that their formula is outdated and mostly ineffective; it revolves around trickery and deception.  There isn’t “one simple trick” that will “unclog your liver” and help you “melt off 20 pounds of fat in 20 days.”  Even if you work out six days a week for two hours a day, that’s still only 12 hours a week.  That leaves 156 hours where you have no plan.

To achieve your ultimate goals, you’re going to need to understand that when you encounter hurdles, you can’t just push harder and harder to get there faster.  It’s going to take as long as it’s going to take, and there will be periods where you feel like you aren’t making as much progress as you should.  This is why we believe performance is so important, even for people who aren’t competitive athletes; getting better at exercise gives you something else to be proud of and focus on when you feel like you’re stagnant.

Unfortunately, the fitness industry doesn’t sell “getting better at exercise” – that isn’t what people buy.  The reality is, though, that  every ideal physique you see was attained through a lot of hard work over a long, long period of time.  Every fit person you want to look like put in years of training, eating, and learning about their bodies.  It doesn’t happen overnight but work capacity matters and building it is a big priority.

Bottom line:  If your nutrition coach isn’t honest with you about how long it’s going to take you to achieve your goals, drop them like a hot potato.  Don’t be a sucker for the rest of your life.  That might sound harsh but UNDERSTANDING is important, and I know that.  I personally bought into all of the misdirection that was available for me to buy until I decided that I need a better understanding and a patient approach.  That was the big secret in the end.

5.  ”Are you ready to commit?”

Look, I get it.  Before I took my health seriously, I wanted to undo all of my bad decisions all at once too.  That never landed me in a healthy place though; I was a victim to the shortcut mentality.  I just wanted it to be all over as quickly as possible and it just constantly landed me back in a place making bad decisions.

I’ll put this as simply as I can:  A patient approach will take  you where you want to go.  We offer a year-long membership for a reason.  We built Eat To Perform around the idea that helping people develop a better mentality allows for patience.    Patience opens your mind to a realistic, sustainable approach where maintenance and building most of the time are the norm, with the occasional period of dieting each year to emphasize fat loss.

Oh, by the way, we aren’t the only ones out there doing it this way; in fact, there are a lot of like minded coaches doing great things for people.  Unfortunately, they are being drowned out by the deceitful marketing tactics of wizards peddling miracles.  True understanding takes time and a willingness to explore something you hand’t considered – maybe fat loss can move down your list of priorities a bit.

We have a special offer for the end of 2014 that bundles all four of our books – including Metabolic Flexibility for Fat Loss – with a Science Lab membership (one on one training from Eat To Perform coaches). Get reliable information and trusted guidance from our community of experts! For more info, click the button below!
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“Does your Doctor Even Functional Fitness?”

Dr. Pat

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The high intensity functional fitness movement has been booming over the past few years, and with that popularity, it has also come under scrutiny while also having a very strong and passionate following. Anyone reading this probably does not need further clarification, but for any of my patients who are not familiar, the simple description is that it is a program focused on generally short, but high intensity, circuit-training style lifts and exercises which includes body weight and free weights.

As a former division 1 NCAA wrestler, I certainly appreciated much of the utility when geared toward younger athletes and done in a safe manner. But as a “DocWhoLifts” and endocrinologist focusing on a patient population desperately needing to improve any type of exercise in their life, I’ve been skeptical recommending a steady dose of WOD’s for patients. I went so far as to engage in a weekend-long certification course on the protocol.  I decided that I would ask around for some opinions from those who have truly experienced it. The man I first thought of was Dr. Patrick McLaughlin. He is a fellow “DocWhoLifts,” a very good friend of mine and an extraordinary pediatrician. I knew he has had enormous success so I asked him to blog about his perspective.

Dr. Pat 1 year before and after

Dr. Pat 1 year before and after

This article was originally published on the “Docs Who Lift” blog which is the site of our doctors Spencer and Kasey Nadolsky.  Spencer is one of the resources we turn to here on Eat To Perform regarding medical questions and articles and he is one of the authors of our book “Your Diet Sucks:  The Eat To Perform Guide to Flexible Eating”

12 Month Retrospective

[Let me begin by stating that I never venture into the “blogosphere” for any other reason than for entertainment purposes only. If you are looking for evidence-based data and studies on the success or failures of interventions made for patient populations, then you are in the wrong place and reading the wrong article. That being said, expert opinions should and do carry merit and can be useful if read with the appropriate amount of bias. Some may consider my background, training and experience in pediatric medicine and collegiate/national-level athletics makes me an expert, and others will say I’m just another “Dr. Oz” pushing the latest weight loss product. Of course this is the blogosphere, so both opinions are valid.]

Now that you have read my disclaimer, let me begin by saying that I am a board-certified pediatric M.D. with a BS in exercise sciences and a master’s degree in physiology and biophysics. I have been an athlete my entire life (soccer, baseball, etc.) but then moved on to rowing in high school and college. I was a national champion, a division one collegiate all-academic/all-american and a former member of the U.S. Junior National Rowing team. Now I’m 35 years old, married with a baby at home, working full-time in a pediatric practice and an avid CFer.

I was asked by my colleague and good friend Dr. Karl Nadolsky to give my expert opinion as both a participant and a physician. I should mention that I am not a certified trainer nor am I an athletic trainer; I am a pediatrician. I participate in WOD’s as an athlete and nothing more. For me, the sport has fit perfectly into my hectic lifestyle given the short amount of time required to complete a daily WOD (workout) and MOD (weight lifting movement). It provides me with a therapeutic outlet away from my profession and an opportunity to “compete” again.

The atmosphere at a “box” (gym) is very different from your typical fitness center. Classes, workouts and trainer instruction are designed to be BOTH personal and team-oriented which can appeal to both the individual athlete (think tennis and wrestling) and the team athlete (rowing, football, etc.) Our WODs remind me of those which we did in rowing, demanding and difficult. You are always striving to beat the guy next to you or achieve a personal best score or time, yet you were always encouraging your teammate to achieve his best as well. In rowing your boat was only as fast as your weakest man, so as much as you wanted to beat the guy sitting next to you, you also wanted to see him succeed. This phenomenon of competing against and encouraging others is unique to this sport (or training protocol), as if you were on a team. The community fosters this environment; it is infectious and rewarding. From beginners to elite athletes, all are encouraged to achieve your best, not necessarily to be the best.

I found success because of my background as an athlete, not because I am a physician, and I think this is important. As a pediatrician and an advocate for healthy living in general, I firmly believe that everyone needs to find an outlet for exercise much like we find time to brush our teeth.  It’s possible this could be that outlet for many people based on these facts: time commitment is less than 60 minutes, instruction is personalized and workouts can be scaled up or down to all skill and fitness levels.

If you enter a box thinking you will become buff and will master all the movements immediately, then you are wrong. The exercises will likely get you in shape, build your endurance and strengthen your core. Like all exercise programs, what you put in is typically what you get out of it. You don’t have to study or follow the paleo diet (I don’t) and you don’t have to purchase weight lifting shoes (I did) to succeed. You just have to show up.

Most people who fail exercise programs are either disenfranchised by one aspect or another of the program prescribed – too hard or not hard enough, not enough time, boredom, intimidation, lack of commitment. The environment at boxes attempts to prevent these excuses from surfacing by providing a welcoming environment that makes you want to come back. The WODs and exercises vary greatly and you do not have to come up with an exercise program all by yourself, a factor that limited my success when I tried to work out my own. By recording your daily WODs, personal bests in weight lifting, run times, row times, so on and so on, you create a yard stick to measure your success by. Logging your work is a much more effective and valuable way to calculate achievement versus measuring weight loss on a scale!

I began seeing changes in my performance (and physique) within 2-3 months. My clothes did not fit and I was getting faster and stronger than I had ever been in my entire life within 4-6 months. My 35 year version of me would impress and likely beat the 18 year old version by any standard. I found that I achieved the most success by scheduling which days I worked out and which days I rested based on my schedule and not based on which workouts I liked to attend. I spent time in “open gym,” time without a scheduled WOD, working on movements I was less familiar with (overhead squats) or those which I just performed poorly (double-unders). I supplement my training with other events like running 5K’s or Spartan Races as a change of pace. I never practice running, but as my overall fitness improved, I saw my 5K time drop over 5 minutes to nearly 21:00, much faster than my 18 year old self. It’s just another yard stick that I use to measure my success and fitness level, and most people find their “yard sticks” along the way.

I cannot comment on how non-athletes would fair in this of style gym because I do not have that experience. I work out with people of all different ages (11-75) and body types (petite to XXL), but the common thread among most of us is that we at one time or another had been in better shape and wanted to get back to feeling healthy again. Perhaps someone who has NEVER tried a sport of any kind could succeed if their willpower was strong enough, but I’m not sure. What I do know is both athletes and non-athletes are supported just the same and they would see goals met in the same way that I do.
Lastly, I leave you with this final thought (and you do not have to be a medical professional to know): bad habits die hard and good habits are hard to come by. WOD’ing has been a great habit for me and should be considered as such for anyone who finds it.

We have a special offer for the end of 2014 that bundles all four of our books – including Metabolic Flexibility for Fat Loss – with a Science Lab membership (one on one training from Eat To Perform coaches). Get reliable information and trusted guidance from our community of experts! For more info, click the button below!
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“The Easiest Diet EVER” by Paul Nobles

High protein

We have a special offer for the end of 2014 that bundles all four of our books – including Metabolic Flexibility for Fat Loss – with a Science Lab membership (one on one training from Eat To Perform coaches). Get reliable information and trusted guidance from our community of experts! For more info, click the button below!
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As the title suggests, this is about as simple as it gets.  This article is all about losing fat – how much to eat, what to eat, and whether or not you should throw in some extra activity.  Before I get into the dieting stuff though, I do need to bring up a few things.  If you’re already up to snuff, you can skip ahead but I don’t recommend it.

Are You Eating Enough Now?

You probably think you’re over eating because you have more fat on your body than you would like.  This notion is incorrect for a lot of people.  That is why we  created the ETP Calculator to give you a ballpark figure based on tried-and-true science.  Don’t be frightened by this process – that is why we have a team of professionals in the Science Lab to help you along.

Just understand that  fat loss has two speeds, addition and subtraction.  The addition part adds lean mass built through eating adequate amounts of food.  The subtraction part, for most people, should only happen very rarely.  I will detail how to go about that later in the post.  Just understand that LEAN MASS is your metabolic furnace.

Want to solve your metabolism issues?  Quit dieting all of the damn time and take a smart approach to building and maintaining muscle.  This isn’t optional!

The Goal Isn’t Weight Loss – It’s Fat Loss

The goal of this article will be to help you mobilize stored body fat.  What I first need you to understand is that no macronutrient – protein, fat, or carbs – is bad or good – it basically comes down to the best use for our goals.  Most of our readers are athletes.  If, as an example, you are coming from a relatively low Calorie way of eating (hypocaloric) that relied mostly on fats for energy, then you probably weren’t storing a lot of fat because you were under eating overall.

Sounds good right? Not so fast.  This way of eating isn’t great for people that “do stuff” because without proteins and carbs in good proportions as well, the muscle you are tearing down during your workouts isn’t getting what it needs to heal and get stronger and potentially grow.  Eating low Calorie and/or low carb can work as a maintenance style of eating but once again, that’s just using subtraction.  Frankly it’s not only unnecessary, but it’s also not optimal if you want to see results in the mirror.

Step 1:  Get The Math Right

OK, OK, OK.  Enough preaching, let’s get to the heart of the matter.

To lose fat, we need to create a Calorie deficit – but how large of a deficit do we need?  Well, we want the least amount of interference (deficit way of eating) for the most results.  That is to say that a greater Calorie deficit does not always yield more fat loss but it will stress you out.  A moderate recommendation to start off with is to take out 500 Calories a day or roughly 3,500 Calories a week.  If you’re coming from being well-fed, you’ll pretty consistently lose 1 pound of fat per week that way – this is about as fast as you want to lose body fat or you risk losing muscle, although some people with more fat to lose can get a bit more aggressive.

There are a multitude of ways to create this deficit, but I will give you three examples.

  1. Dietary restriction + low intensity activity.  Add low intensity activity (walking is perfect) for 250 of the Calories and eat 250 Calories less.  This means you will be eating a fair amount of lean meats which I will walk you through in the next step.  Drop your fat intake down by about 27 grams and you’re in business.  Why drop fat rather than carbs or protein?  Carbs are your primary fuel source during exercise and you need to keep them up so you have the energy to kill it in the gym.  Protein can’t be reduced because you want to keep the muscle you have.  This leaves fats as the most likely target you can live without – you have ample storage on your own body.
  2. Dietary restriction alone.  You could just drop 500 Calories from your diet – first from fat, then from carbs.  The problem here is that it can be too big of a decrease too quickly and you’ll be hungry.
  3. Increased activity alone.  The problem with this option is that most people are already exercising a lot.  Adding more activity to create a 500 Calorie deficit can certainly work, but it can be stressful and time consuming.

In the end, the best route is to add a bit of activity and eat a bit less.  Moderation is the mantra.

Step 2:  Preparation and “What To Eat”


The hardest part of dieting for most people is getting in enough protein, or eating enough in general.  Once you know how much you need to eat, you need to actually do some chewing and that’s impossible without some cooking.

I suggest embracing your “inner body builder” and doing some food prep in advance.  Simply having 4 ounce servings of any lean meat you like can really help this process immensely.  Same can be said for rice and potatoes.  These can all be cooked in batches.  Greens of course are the easy part – adding a handful of greens or will make a big difference in getting your vitamins and minerals in for the day.

Here’s a short list of foods you should eat when you’re dieting.  Please note that for the sake of convenience, we have most of these labeled in the MyFitnessPal food database; just search for “Eat To Perform”.

Lean Meat Options

  • Turkey or Chicken (white meat)
  • Fish/seafood are great in this scenario
  • Lean red meat – steaks or 90/10 ground beef
  • Egg whites are also an option for added protein that is low in fat.  This doesn’t mean you would never eat egg yolks but you might limit them for these 8 weeks.
*It’s important to note that we aren’t “anti-fat”.  Once the eight weeks are up fats get added back in (yay, egg yolks!)

Carb Sources (around workouts)

  • White Rice (white rice has a bad rap but it’s great for athletes)
  • Vitargo (Vitargo is a starchy carb supplement that loads efficiently around workouts)
  • Dextrose (basically pure glucose and would typically be added to a protein drink)

Carb Sources with meals

  • Potatoes (Sweet or Regular)
  • Oatmeal (think starchy rather than grainy and you have the idea)
  • Fruit (it’s OK to eat fruit but it’s not as good as starches because it contains mostly fructose and some fiber, so keep starches as the bulk of your carb intake with occasional fruit.  Also fruits are good sources of micronutrients or vitamins.)
  • Fibrous veggies.  Eat these with each meal, roughly a cup at a time.  The leafier and greener the better as a general rule so keep spinach and kale but don’t ignore other veggies you like – they are a great source of micronutrients or vitamins.  Also, don’t over do the veggies because it will make it more difficult to reach your macronutrient goals by artificially playing with your hunger signaling.

Fats (ideally we want to stick to monounsaturated sources):

  • Avocados
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Fish oil
*once again, we are not demonizing saturated fat.  We are eating with a purpose and that purpose if fat loss but I think you will see that adding in a lot of saturated fats once we are done isn’t a HUGE advantage.  Again, moderation is the mantra.

Step 3:  Putting It All Together

To  give you a better idea of what I’m talking about, I’m going to show you what a day of eating looks like for a 5’5″, 150 pound, 40 year old. woman – we’ll call her Nancy.  She’s “very active”, going to the gym 4-5 days a week.  She’s hitting her macros comfortably and has been for awhile – 150 grams of protein, 280 grams of carbs, and 75 grams of fat daily for a grand total of 2,394 Calories each day.

She is looking to lose eight pounds of fat in eight weeks.  Assuming she reaches her goal, she will lose roughly 5% body fat (that’s a lot) by simply losing 8 pounds of fat and retaining her muscle along the way.  Note that while I’m using a woman as an example, the math is the same for everybody (assuming you have read the parts above).

Here are two examples of what a day looks like for Nancy – one using whole foods and the other adding supplementation.  The supplementation example is a bit easier to achieve.  It requires less preparation and it could be argued that it is marginally better for that reason.  It comes down to individual preference  So stick to what works best for you and ignore the parts of this that you don’t feel are a good fit.


Whole Foods (Click To Enlarge)











With Supplements (Click To Enlarge)

Neither of these examples is better than the other but you’ll notice that the whole foods example is A LOT of food.  If you are REALLY invested in eating that way, just remember that it’s going to be a great deal of work. One thing you might consider would be breaking the day into 4 or 5 meals rather than three. Remember these are just examples and I opted for the easiest way to display this for you guys.

We have a special offer for the end of 2014 that bundles all four of our books – including Metabolic Flexibility for Fat Loss – with a Science Lab membership (one on one training from Eat To Perform coaches). Get reliable information and trusted guidance from our community of experts! For more info, click the button below!
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“5 Things I Still Don’t Understand” by Sheri Stiles

SheriStones3Learn how to lose fat while you eat the foods you love!  Get TWO our most popular eBook – the Meal Planning Guide – and our flexible dieting book “Your Diet Sucks” – for just $19.95!  This includes sample meal plans, a step-by-step process, and blank worksheets so you can get on track as soon as possible!
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As I have mentioned before, for the most part, I am pretty laid back and don’t let too many things get to me. I just don’t have the time for that added stress or negativity.

After all, the only true thing we have control over is our reactions to situations. Sure, you have control over many choices but there are many things that are out of your hands and you have to learn to react to them.

Although the list of things that annoy me could be long, I have learned to laugh at most of it. However, there are still some things that I just don’t understand about people!

Let me give you a few examples:

1.  The constant negativity and criticism towards others– I mean this in all areas of life!

Someone could be walking down the street and some of you are criticizing them. You see them lifting, and all of a sudden you are Mr. know-it-all with your coaching. You see someone out lift you, and now shits on. Someone doesn’t do something the way you think is right, and here comes the negativity bus.

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2.  Thinking you’re an expert because you read 1 article on some subject.

I applaud your curiosity for learning, but just because you saw something on you tube doesn’t mean you are instantly an expert. Personally, I mean this mostly in regards to injury. I have been working hard to heal my back injury and that process involved physical therapy, modifying the lifting I love, sacrifice, pain, time, and money. Are you really going to tell me because you saw a “rehab” exercise online that the guy I just paid to see, who’s spent his life studying this stuff, has no clue what he’s talking about and what he’s suggested I do is dumb? I mean I know 1 thing isn’t the cure all, but I trust the professionals a little bit! Anyone can put anything online theses days…I mean come on;)

3.  Women talking about their “diets” all the time with so much misinformation.

Now, I will try and not be negative and criticize, so I don’t end up like the person in number 1, but seriously!  You ate an apple, ½ a piece of chicken, and some pre-packaged “diet” meal for the whole day and you are wondering why you’re not achieving the look you want?  You are eating under 1000 calories and still wondering what’s wrong? Hum…

 4.  Wishing for your goals to come true, without actually putting in work.

Most people do not get where they want to be by not doing some work along the way. You will have to make some sacrifices. You will have hard times, and good times. You will fail probably more often than you succeed. You will have people put you down (refer to number 1) others may not always believe in you, but if you can build strength past that and are willing to work hard, most of those goals can be attained.

5.  Not believing in you!

This is a big one, and it could apply to any area of your life. I really do not understand why people believe themselves to fail before even trying. I get the whole fear thing—fear can be a pain in the ass! But what I don’t understand is who you think is going to believe in you if it doesn’t start within!

I could keep my list going for a while, but instead I will just leave you with a few :)

Instead of putting others down, lets help them. Instead of telling someone they can’t do something, lets try and support them. If you don’t understand something, ask. When someone comes along who is stronger than you, don’t dismiss their hard work; be willing to put in your own hard work!  And lastly, start believing in you! Because trust me, there will be enough negativity and resistance to go around.

“7 Reasons Why You’re Struggling With Pull-ups!” by James Barnum

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Ah…Pull-ups.  The pull-up is one of the most versatile exercises out there; you can do them with your body weight, throw on some chains, use wide and narrow grips, over even turn your palms over and do a chin-up.  This staple movement not only develops strength and muscularity, but it carries over to any real-world scenario where you might need to…pull yourself up and over something. While the pull-up doesn’t seem all that hard to do, it’s one of the most difficult exercises to even get started with so I came up with this short list of the 7 reasons why you STILL haven’t mastered pull-ups!

1.  You’re too heavy. 

More often than not, the folks who have the most trouble with body weight movements like pull-ups are a little on the heavy side and they’ve developed little-to-no general physical preparedness (GPP).  Six-seven years from now when you’re carrying 20 more lbs. of muscle you can probably get away with being heavier, but right now, losing that fat will make a massive difference in your body weight movements.       Be honest with yourself:  if you have a lot of fat to lose and you’re out of shape, you need to tackle one obstacle at a time. Start by getting your nutrition in order so you can drop some weight.  We can help with that. As you work to trim off some fluff, you’ll need to improve your work capacity by doing heavy resistance training with a barbell and dumbbells (more on that in a bit), biking, swimming, walking, rowing, sprinting, sled dragging, and even carrying heavy stuff – which brings us to our second point.

2.  Your grip strength isn’t up to par. 

If you come from a sedentary background – i.e. you don’t play sports, work a physically demanding job, or get a lot of activity in general – chances are your grip isn’t anything to write home about.  If your grip strength isn’t sufficient to hold your body weight, there’s only a slim chance that you’ll be able to do a pull-up.  How do you fix this? Contrary to what you may see at your local globo gym, doing thousands of repetitions of wrist curls with 2.5 lb. plates is NOT the ticket to a bone-crushing grip.  To improve your grip strength, you need to perform exercises that involve static contractions of the hands, forearms, shoulders and upper backHang from the pull-up bar for time, carry heavy dumbbells for distance, load up a barbell and do timed holds for 30-60 seconds.  Grip training is hard, so don’t bite off more weight than you can chew; start off light and go for endurance.

3.  Your back needs to get stronger. 

This may seem like a no brainer – that’s why you’re trying to incorporate pull-ups into your routine anyway, isn’t it?  Although pull-ups are one of the best ways to develop back strength, the fact of the matter is that staring at the rig isn’t building a single ounce of muscle. Whether you can’t do a single pull-up or you can only bust out a few ugly reps before you’re gassed, you should add a few upper body pulling movements into your back workout to ensure that you’re getting stronger each week.  Try these exercises for 3 sets of 10 repetitions each: Pull-up negatives have tremendous carryover to the pull-up.  Stand on something or jump up to the bar and get yourself in the top position of a pull-up.  Lower yourself in a controlled fashion until your arms are fully extended, then get right back up there and keep going until you’re done with your set! Ring rows are a go-to pull for building strength in your entire back and core because they get you working with your body weight and can be easily modified as you progress.  Start with your feet on the floor, then elevate your feet with a box as you get stronger. Single-arm dumbbell rows are great because they offer freedom of movement and an increased range of motion.  Support your body with one arm by leaning on a bench and explosively pull the dumbbell back like you’re trying to elbow someone in the gut. Lat Pulldowns or any vertical pull done with a cable machine can help you develop pulling strength along the same plane as a pull-up and they offer the same freedom of movement as a dumbbell.  These specific physical preparedness (SPP) exercises use the same muscle groups and similar motor recruitment patterns as the pull-up.  If you improve at a number of SPP exercises, you can bet your bottom dollar you’ll get better at pull-ups too.

4.  Your form needs work. 

Pull-ups are like any other exercise or movement – there’s a right way and a wrong way to do them.  You can’t just grab the bar and pull all willy-nilly!  Here are some tips on maximizing your leverage and getting your back into it:

  • Take a shoulder-width grip!  Not only will you tear your shoulders apart by taking too wide a grip, but you’ll also limit your range of motion and use less of your back.  You can always work in wider grips as you progress but most of your pull-ups should be done with a moderate, shoulder-width grip.
  • Keep your head up!  By lifting your chin and cocking your neck backwards (packing your neck as some may call it), you can engage your upper back muscles and put yourself into a much better position to pull from.  To get an idea of what I mean, try first shoving your head forward, looking down, and tucking your chin into your body – do the opposite of that!
  • Pull Up and back!  Don’t think of the pull-up as a strictly vertical movement.  Instead, lean back and pull the bar to your upper chest, not your chin or neck.  Your lower body will be slightly out in front of you and your back will remain neutral – the classic hollow gymnastics position) – NOT arched like crazy.  Don’t curl your legs – at least not at first.

5.  You don’t stay tight. 

If you can’t maintain relative body position throughout the pull-up and you flop around like a mudkip, you have what we call an energy leak.  What this means is that instead of using your entire body to pull, you’re relying on whatever muscle will do the work – most likely your rotator cuff.  (Hint:  that’s bad.) Everything should stay tight when you pull; point your toes, lock your legs, squeeze your glutes, cock your head back, tuck your chin, arch your back slightly, take a big breath, and push your abs out as you pull your upper chest to the bar with a vice grip around the handles.  Don’t loosen up until you’re done with the set!  Sounds uncomfortable, eh?  It should be.

6.  You aren’t practicing often enough. 

You are what your repeatedly do.  If your form is on point, but your specific work capacity sucks and you have to jerk your body around to get your chin over the bar after the first repetition, you’re just teaching your body to express an inefficient movement pattern.  It’s much more difficult to unlearn bad form than it is to teach it, so you’re going to want to add in some specialized practice whenever possible. One of the best ways to practice pull-ups is to hang a cheap doorframe pull-up bar in a room you enter/exit frequently and knock out 1-2 explosive reps every time you pass through that door.  In his book “Power To The People”, Pavel Tsatsouline describes this as “greasing the groove” and it takes advantage of increased training frequency and specificity to perfect whatever movement you apply to it.  Here’s a real world example of how you can use this technique over the course of a week if you can only d 5-6 pull-ups in a row right now:

10 sets of 2
2 sets of 3
12 sets of 2
3 sets of 3
10 sets of 3
2 sets to failure

What’s going on here is that you’re accumulating a large volume of perfect repetitions throughout the week.  The volume undulates between 9 and 30 repetitions per day with only one day off.  By focusing on sets of 2-3 reps, you can focus on form yet still elicit the fatigue required to grow stronger.  At the end of the week, you’re trying to hit as many reps as possible across two sets.  Over time, you’ll gain pull-up repetitions and really dial in your form.

7.  You’re over-reliant on assisted pull-ups.

This is going to shock some people, but doing assisted pull-ups exclusively in your workouts may be preventing you from doing a real, unassisted pull-up.  Why?  Look back at reason #5 where we went over technique/form.  Your whole body needs to stay tight during a pull-up, and assistance – whether it’s on a machine or with a band – removes the legs and core from the equation almost completely.  It’s difficult to use your back efficiently with a loose core so you end up pulling with less lat engagement and develop improper mechanics.  Assisted pull-ups have their place as a developmental exercise (see reason #3), but you absolutely cannot rely upon them too much.  When it comes time to WOD, modify and save the assisted movements for your strength/skill sessions. With these tips in mind, go forth and conquer the pull-up!

We have a special offer for the end of 2014 that bundles all four of our books – including Met Flex for Fat Loss and our Meal Planning Guide – with a Science Lab membership.  Get reliable information and trusted guidance from our community of experts!  For more info, click the button below!
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