ETP Testimonial: Chris Dietz Transforms His Body


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“In the above picture, I weighed around 230 pounds. I had played sports my whole life, football and baseball on high school teams; then I was an amateur skateboarder and recreational snowboarder until November of 2005 when I tore my ACL and partially tore both the MCL and LCL. I had them surgically repaired and I got through the rehab quickly enough and got back to some level of activity, but over time  it slowly dropped off.  You know the story, my job changed from labor to desk, I had a couple kids, I was a pack a day smoker. I had become obese, weak, and out of shape. I couldn’t even play with my son without getting winded within minutes (if that) and needing to catch my breath.

Eventually I decided to get back into shape. We were going to have to reapply for new healthcare and in order to get a decent rate, I had to get my BMI down and quit smoking. In the pic above my BMI was 34 – obese. So I quit smoking and started working out by following workouts you see in mags like Men’s Health. I started running a lot, barely a block at first, but eventually 5ks. I also started researching diets and began changing the way I eat.  

During this time my lifts were stalling and my workouts were getting harder to get through. I was getting injured a lot, pulled muscles, strains,  aches, DOMS, etc… in general I was not any happier at 190 than I was at 230. As a 5’10, 190 lb guy who was lifting, running 5ks or doing hill sprints 6 days a week, I had cut from 2200 cals to 2000 down to 1600. I felt miserable with where my body was, and damnit, I WANTED TO SEE MY ABS! I actually got down to 173 lbs. to appease the insurance company (BMI 24.8!) but it wasn’t fun. It was like my body didn’t want to be that small. I should’ve listened to myself.

Shortly after this pic was taken I started getting fatter again. I was at a loss as to what to do. I thought I was doing everything right. I was trying every supplement and trick in the book to figure out how to get leaner…. I was eating “clean”, cutting out grains, potatoes, rice, sugar, HFCS, etc… I tried Intermittent Fasting, Warrior Diet, Zone Diet, and Paleo/Primal. I kept lowering carbs (even though I technically already was low carb from cutting potatoes and grains, I just didn’t know it) fat burning supplements… I tried every possible thing I could find… except for properly fueling myself. 

The truth is, I was miserable and had been during this whole battle with my body. In my frenzy to find my abs, I had gotten completely lost in the sea of fitness and diet information out there. I don’t really remember how I found ETP exactly, but in November 2013, somewhere in that ocean I came across a write up on April that talked about her taking pictures during a bulk. I read it a couple times  and some others on the site and then immediately bought Metabolic Flexibility for Fat Loss. I read it cover to cover, and then read it again, and again, and again… and it made perfect sense. I signed up for the Science Lab and started a training log. But I still wasn’t ready to accept that I needed to eat more. It took me a couple months to really get my mind wrapped around this concept of eating for performance.

Around Christmas of 2013 I was still clinging to the “eat less, do more” philosophy. Still not ready to let go, and then I remember looking around me at people at work, my friends, and my family. I would see people at the grocery store, Target, or restaurants. I would overhear people talking about cleaning up their diet or being “good” in order to lose weight and I realized  that almost every single person I know, at some time or another, has said they needed to lose weight. Just about everyone has tried this diet or that diet, some 3 week challenge, or meal replacement shakes. I was standing in checkout lines and noticed that almost every single magazine has at least one headline that tells you “how to get slim quick!” I realized we’re being constantly barraged by this “lose weight, smaller is better” message in magazines, TV, and movies. Everyone thinks they can get the body they want by doing a lot of cardio and cutting things out of their diet (but don’t lift weights, it’s dangerous!),  but yet no one I knew was successful at any of it in the long term. That’s when I became aware of the disconnect and realized I needed to do something different.

I was sick of a scale determining my feelings of failure or success. I made up my mind that I wasn’t in this to lose weight, but to be the best version of me I can be. I saw that the “lose weight” me and the “best version” of me were not the same thing. The best version of me required building muscle, which meant eating properly for that goal because the two go hand in hand. I realized I had to tune everything around me out. Everyone and everything who was telling me not to eat eggs, bread, or dairy, (or Oreos which is a major bummer because I really do love Oreos) had to be ignored. I would have to  just smile at them and stick to the plan. I became keenly aware for the first time that EVERYONE around me who is “on a diet” is as miserable as I was and they are failing in their weight loss endeavors.  I made up my mind to commit to ETP.

I knew I had to be patient and consistent with my lifting and with my calories and macros to get long-term sustainable results. No more extreme diets, no more quick fixes, no more questionable supplements. So, with the ETP TDEE calculator and April’s help, I got my calories and macros dialed in. I “fixed” my eating habits to more closely align with my own ideas and feelings about food by adopting an IIFYM approach to allow for moderation of all foods. I still eat mostly whole foods, probably 80/20, and I’m a member of a local, organic CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm. But I no longer stress about each and every ingredient in my food. I don’t have any banned foods. There’s no good or bad, no cheat meals… there’s just food, and it is far easier to choose what to eat when you can apply purpose to a meal. Truthfully, Eat to Perform and the support and advice found in the Science Lab have given me my life back in a way no diet ever could. Where every other plan took things away, ETP gave it back.

This is me now, 227 pounds


It mystifies me as to why BMI is used by insurance companies(or anyone really) to rate how healthy you are, and the proof of the BMI=health fallacy is right there in these pictures. I’m not the leanest guy, but I’m leaner than I was before. I’m not the strongest guy, but I’m stronger than I was before.
BMI doesn’t tell me that my numbers on the bar are going up every cycle or that I’m hitting new PRs or RRs every month. It doesn’t tell me that I can play with my kids for hours instead of just watching them. It doesn’t tell me that since the beginning, my bench has gone from 75# to 315#, My OHP from 50# to 190#, my squat from 125# to 375#, and my deadlift from 85# to 410#. It doesn’t tell me anything about myself except for a number, a ratio of my height to weight. BMI says I am the same in the first and last picture, 34 vs. 32, but am I the same person? BMI says I am and I call bulls**t.

Screw BMI, I’m going to Eat to Perform and enjoy every single rep and every last mouthful.”

“Thoughts on Competition Day Nutrition” by Sheri Stiles


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There is always a lot of prep that goes into getting ready for a competition (at least for me there is).  I have been competing for almost 4 years now and I’m still playing around with nutrition during events so when I am asked by others newer to the sport how to eat, I sometimes struggle with giving advice.  It’s not because I don’t have thoughts on this, but because there are a million ways it can be done and some methods are better than others; however, I will share some of the ways I’ve gone about nutrition and eating prior to and during my events.

I am sure there are “better” or “cleaner” ways to eat, and it’s going to be very individualized. I should disclose, I do not cut weight for my weight class (I usually drop about 3-4lbs only from not lifting for a week prior) and that’s going to entail a whole different way of eating. I tried it once—hated life!  I also sit too far away from the lighter weight class after years of lifting and gaining muscle, so it would be a struggle for me to cut. I also do not suggest weight cuts for any novice lifter—especially if you’re entering your first competition – but again, there are others who do this and that is fine.

My first powerlifting meet was much different than I do things now. I had been keto cycling for a while—not for any reason really, but a few of the guys I trained with were and I wanted to try it. So, while everyone else at the meet was walking around eating carby goodness, here I was, over in the corner, so happy I could eat a damn banana, rice cakes, and yogurt. I really didn’t know any different at that time. The short time I prepped for that was not filled with thoughts of what I should eat.

By my next few meets I had gotten much better! I was now that “typical powerlifter” walking around with candy and eating a donut after weigh-ins.

When I traveled to compete in Vegas for IPL worlds, and LA for the Fit Expo, I realized that getting a good meal in the night before, and eating during the event was even more important. I wasn’t able to bring my own food like I had in the past as I was flying to these events so after weigh-ins for Worlds, my dad and I hit the buffet. I made sure to keep it somewhat simple, and stayed with safe foods—had an omelet, bacon, fruit, and of course a waffle for breakfast. The night before I had a steak Chipotle bowel. The main goal was protein, and carbs I knew I could digest well.

For the Fit Expo it was a little different—I had somehow weighed in about 7 lbs. less than expected and felt weak. After weigh-ins we again went out to eat. This time, though, it was like carbs galore. I had tomato juice, oysters, an entire basket of bread and butter, and then chicken Alfredo for lunch. Again, the goal was loading carbs and getting my salt intake high.

Now we arrive at the first Strongman event I did this summer.  There were no weight classes – all the women were in open division. So my plan was to carb load for 3 days prior this time, instead of doing it all the night before. I won’t lie, I love carbs (who doesn’t right?) so this was as fun as it sounds!  I ate normal during the days, but had huge bowls of pasta each night. I added salt to my water, I had sweet potato’s at every meal, and the night before had a hamburger and ice cream.  This plan worked—I weighed myself the morning of and had bloated up 6 lbs. I felt strong, and had an awesome event!

As you can see, I play around with what to eat and timing a lot. I don’t think I have it all figured out. I know there are plenty ways to go about this.  What I can tell you, is there are some things that are important the night before and day of.

The Night Before

I personally know a handful of strength coaches who advocate for red meat and a carb source like sweet potatoes, baked potato, rice, pasta, even Chinese buffets the night before an event. Stick with good fats like butter, olive, or coconut oil, and try to keep the sodium intake semi high. I have added small amounts of salt to my water to increase sodium intake, and I love salt and vinegar chips, etc. I wouldn’t overdo it, and this is not the time to try new foods as you don’t know how your stomach may react to them. Last time I competed at a local Strongman event (on very short notice) I had half a rotisserie chicken, salt and vinegar chips, and Mike n’ Ikes. (I know some of you reading this will probably be scared of that.)

Day Of

This can be the hardest part as most of the time you are nervous, and may not actually be that hungry. I still have this problem after many competitions. The best advice I can give is to try and get a good breakfast in. If you are not a huge breakfast person, have something small. I usually have yogurt with granola and a shake, oatmeal and eggs, etc. I try and get a slower digesting carb in paired with protein and some fats so that I at least have some food in me. I haven’t done a meet in a while with a same-day weigh-in, but when I did, after I weighed in was when I ate this small meal. Throughout the day, and before a lift/event, you want more of a quick digesting carb—think about simple sugars.  Candy, juice, bananas, and yes, donuts!  I personally eat baby food. I get the squeeze pouches of bananas, plums, etc. It’s one of the easiest things on your digestion (it’s meant for a baby) and has the simple sugars I am looking for. I usually have a PB&J sandwich at about lunch time (if it’s an all-day event) I also drink pear juice, and do drink a lot of Pedialyte—especially for strongman where I am outside and it’s a long day. I have a shake too, if I am still feeling hungry, but don’t want a lot of food sitting in my stomach.

As you can see, it’s really about knowing your body. Like I said, this is not the time to experiment with new foods, or go super crazy on foods you don’t normally eat. If you usually eat chicken and sweet potatoes, don’t eat pizza and a greasy burger the night before. Stick to smaller meals if you can’t stomach that much food, and watch how your body feels or reacts to the food. Try and get enough carbs loaded in, along with protein and salt. Make sure you have some simple sugars on hand during the meet, enough Pedialyte to keep hydrated, and even if you are not hungry, try and eat a little bit so that you have some energy come your turn to lift.

Then go lift! That’s the fun part :)

Changes to Eat To Perform Challenges


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Here at Eat To Perform, we run two different types of challenges for our members – ETP Challenges and Team Challenges, both with different standards of judging for different goals.  These occur about every two months and serve as a way to reward those members who take their performance, health, and body composition very seriously.  With your 1-year Science Lab membership, you will have the ability to participate in at least five challenges.

Challenge Schedule

We just began our first ever Team Challenge on August 1st!  Starting October 1st and going into 2015, the schedule will work like this:

  • October 1st will begin the last Challenge of 2014 – this will be an ETP Challenge.
  • January 1st will begin the first challenge of 2015 – this will be a Team Challenge.

ETP Challenges vs. Team Challenges

Let me explain the differences between the Challenges and why we do it the way we do it.  A big part of the idea with Eat To Perform is to get people thinking about the value of building muscle (not just fat loss), and both of these challenges emphasize that mindset.  We don’t want you to (and it’s unnecessary) to eat at a deficit all year!  This means building and maintaining muscle most of the time and only having short bursts of restriction so they are more effective and you can sustain that progress.  Put simply, ETP Challenges are about building muscle and they set you up for fat loss-focused Team Challenges.  They’re coordinated throughout the year to help you get the most out of your effort!

In the ETP Challenges, we emphasize muscle as a multiple of that of fat.  As an example, the October 1st challenge will bring us through the holiday season, a time where people typically aren’t looking to “diet”.  During this challenge, we’ll focus on keeping the muscle you are earning during your workouts while you also fit in time to lose fat (if that is your goal).  What typically happens is that people gain muscle, improve their work capacity, and that promotes fat loss.  You essentially change your fat loss equation.

The Team Challenge is different:  it’s focused more on fat loss.  These challenges take place during periods of the year where it’s usually desirable to lose fat, like after the holiday season – think early January.  This gives you the opportunity to focus on building muscle during the fall, then turn around and shed unnecessary body fat.  Because you’ve changed the math in your favor during the regular ETP Challenge, you’ll get very good results and have a lot of fun!  That doesn’t mean we don’t value performance though.

NEW:  Baseline Workouts

Going forward, we will add a NEW component to the Challenges that lets us objectively score for performance improvements!  If you have done challenges at a gym, you know that they will often have a baseline workout to judge gains in strength and conditioning; this is no different.  For now, I won’t give away the workouts but I will tell you how the scoring will work.

  • At the beginning of the challenge, you will do your workout and record the score.  This is your initial assessment.
  • At the end of the challenge, you will redo the workout and your actual score will be the difference between the initial assessment and the follow-up, whether it was positive or negative.
  • Then we take all participants that are in your group and rank the scoring/total the points for athletes places.  That will determine the winner.  Again, think about most fitness competitions like the Games or Regionals and you have the idea.

Adding this component will be a lot of fun and we also think it fits will with our theme of improving athletic performance alongside body composition so we’re really looking forward to kicking things off.

NEW:  Challenges WITHOUT Body Fat Testing

Since day one, body fat testing has been a big part of Eat To Perform and that won’t change anytime soon.  For a long time though, many of the Eat To Performers without access to either BOD POD, DexaScan or Hydrostatic weighing didn’t have many options to participate.  Now they do!  Beginning with our last Team Challenge and moving forward, we’ve added an untested group to allow them to compete alongside other members and get the same great advice from our doctors, nutritionists, and coaches; the only difference now is that they don’t miss out because they can’t find a testing facility nearby.  This allows them to Eat To Perform and pursue a goal without testing (which is completely possible).

We are excited about these new changes moving forward and we think it will make for a more interesting experience for everyone involved!

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“Giving Thanks” by Sheri Stiles


Today you can find blogs full of opinions on just about any subject matter you want. Some may be those of experts – there may be research involved – and some for all you know might just be the late night rants of your neighbor.

I would not consider myself an expert on many things, but there are areas I would consider myself knowledgeable in. When I write, I write for an audience (mainly women) and hope to inspire, motivate, or reassure others who may be facing the same struggles, situations, or achievements I am.  Although I love writing, and sharing my stories and experiences in general, people often still ask “Why do you write?”

Well, I write for others.

Just this week, I have had 2 women express to me that I (in my writing/blogging) have helped them through a difficult situation. The first woman is new to powerlifting and looking to improve her strength overall.  She told me she decided she wanted to clean up her diet; she decided she wanted to get a little more serious about eating habits, and how those transferred over to strength achievements. She expressed to me she had read my article on food journaling, and my starting to use MyFitnessPal as a way to get my own diet in check. From our conversation, it seemed like she was shocked to learn that I myself use a food diary as a tool—that its not just something for “beginners.” She told me I had inspired her to start journaling and we chatted about nutrition for a bit.

The second situation was a little different. I met a fellow female athlete this weekend (through mutual friends) that had recently decided to compete in her first strongwoman contest. Our mutual friend mentioned I had just completed my first one as well.  She came across my “Starting Strongman” article, of which she exclaimed helped to solidify her decision to compete in her first competition!

I can’t tell you what it means to me to hear from someone that I motivated them, that something I wrote inspired them, or that I helped them in anyway to keep pushing towards their goals.

That is exactly why I write. That is why I am so grateful and thankful to have the opportunity I do (thanks to Eat To Perform) to share my experiences, advice, and help with others.  I don’t claim to be an expert, but I still feel the same satisfaction from being a positive image to others.

I don’t believe these women or anyone else needs to thank me. I have not done anything but write some words down—The thanks should be given to those of you who read what I write, support me, and strive to reach your goals daily. If I am reaching or helping one person, its worth it!

So, thank you guys!  :)

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Inspiration From A Pizza? Hawaiian Pizza Tacos


Sometimes, I find inspiration from the most unlikely of places.  This recipe is courtesy of one of my favorite pizza combinations…The Hawaiian Pizza!  I love the saltiness of the Canadian bacon along with the sweetness of the pineapple.  I love to add a little bacon to my Hawaiian pizza as well.  So here you go!  Pizza inspired tacos!

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  • 1 (6 pound) pork butt roast
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sea salt (I used Hawaiian Black Lava salt…cause I had it)
  • 1 tablespoon liquid smoke flavoring
  • ½ pound bacon, cooked and chopped
  • Shredded cabbage
  • ½ pineapple, diced
  • 1 mango, diced
  • ½ English cucumber, diced
  • ½ large red onion, diced
  • 1 cup of chopped cilantro
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • Soft tortillas (you can make your own Paleo tortillas if you want) or use Bibb lettuce for lettuce wraps

Rub your pork roast with the salt and place in your slow cooker.  Drizzle the liquid smoke on top and cook on low for 8-10 hours or high for 5-7 hours.

Combine your pineapple, mango, cucumber, onion, cilantro and honey.  Refrigerate until ready to use

When your pork is done you will be able to use 2 forks to pull it apart.

Assemble your tacos with pork, salsa, cabbage and bacon.  Feel free to squeeze a wedge of lime on top for even more yumminess!!

Get our BRAND NEW eBook “Your Diet Sucks” + a 14 day Science Lab trial for just $14.95!  Learn how to get sustainable results while you eat the foods you love!  If you have any questions, our staff will help you through the process!

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“The Competitive Mindset” by Sheri Stiles


As human beings, we have basic instincts and emotions deeply rooted in our heritage.  I believe one of those instincts to be competitiveness. It makes sense if you think about it—in order to adapt in certain cultures and situations, we have to be competitive.  Today, however, we still see this trait in areas like work, school, and basic societal status.  If you watch animals, or children in certain situations, you can see this desire to be competitive manifest as jealousy.

Sure, there are advantages to being competitive—it pushes us to be better, we have a desire to work for something more, it makes us do well in school, work, etc.  But what happens when that drive to compete with others creates negative emotions and behaviors?

Lately I’ve seen a lot of this negative expression surrounding the lifting culture; I understand many of us train the way we do so we can compete ( and hopefully win events) but training and pushing ourselves to do the best is a lot different than being negative and disrespectful to another athlete or competitor.

I believe this to be especially true among female athletes. Try this: imagine someone who is better than you are at the sport you train for.  Now, were those thoughts of that person negative or positive? Although you may have a desire to get better, and feel competing against said person would be a test of your ability, that desire shouldn’t come with hoping the other person fails.

I’ve received many negative, demeaning comments and emails from others (women especially).  I brush it off as the person not being comfortable and confident in who they are but it gets frustrating that we are putting others down to lift themselves up instead of being a positive force. Shouldn’t we be lifting and supporting others to reach their goals whether or not those goals and abilities they have surpass our own?

I guess I see myself as a more positive person.  Do I think I’m the best there is? Absolutely not!  There will always be someone who is stronger than me—and that is fine!  I believe myself to be my biggest competition—I am trying to beat me!  Others develop friendly rivalries, which is also awesome!  Each goal is so individualized, and anything can happen.  Whether you win or lose a competition, people are going to remember how you treated others.

I am not saying you shouldn’t work your ass off and train to win in your sport. You should.  I am saying it matters how you get to that point. It matters how you treated others along the way.  It matters whether or not you supported your competitors or if you were negative, rude, and self-centered.

You may be ranked number 1, hold multiple records, and others may look up to you…but if you’re not a positive and respectful person, eventually people will not care if you’re the best.

The desire to be competitive with each other may be hardwired into our thinking, but we also have a conscious choice as to how we perceive competition and how we display the desire to win.  Whatever the goal, we should push it to the limit but remain humble in our achievements!

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“Beginning a Food Diary” by Sheri Stiles


Food tracking is something we hear a lot about.  Even with the progression of  technology and the availability of smart phones, it’s something I have not actually done for a while. I used to keep a food log (like an old school one where I wrote it in a little notebook) and it took forever!  Recently I have decided to try and drop some body fat, so I was told to get My Fitness Pal and start tracking!

I was a little hesitant at first, as it took so much time before.  I downloaded the app and have started to use it and to my surprise (so far) I love it! I would consider myself a little seasoned in the nutrition area—I did teach nutrition classes to kids and families – and I feel like I “know” what I am supposed to eat and do to lean out or improve body composition.  However, I have always struggled to drop much weight/fat without losing strength, so my strength goals have always taken priority.

Ill clarify, though, that I am not on a “diet”, nor is weight loss necessarily a goal.  I love my muscle (I wouldn’t be upset to gain more) and instead, I would just like to lose some body fat so those muscles I’ve worked hard for show more!

It is only day 3 of my working with this MFP app and I’m shocked how easy it is. There is an option to scan the barcode of food items you are eating, and it pulls in the nutrition information automatically; no searching, guessing, or trying to manually enter the food.  This is the biggest plus for me, as I am so busy during the day, and like most, I do not have time to fumble trying to find the foods to enter.

I also like that it gives you a graph breaking down your macros.  I can easily see how much protein, fat, and carbs I have had for the day in a simple graph.

So far, it’s helping to keep me honest as well :) I don’t eat too terribly (at least not usually) but actually seeing the calories and food choices is much easier than just having them in my head and guessing.

For me, this tracking is not really about limiting—sometimes I have a hard time getting all my meals in, so it’s been helpful in that sense too.  I make sure I get the macros and foods I need to in during the day. You can also track exercise, which I think would be very helpful for someone just starting out.

I am excited to try this tracking ‘experiment’ for a bit and see how it turns out! With rehab and changing my normal routines anyway, this is just another thing to play around with.  I will make sure to keep you all updated on the progress!

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“A Perfect Summer Meal” by Shannon Vonkaenel


I LOVE summer cooking!  I find so much inspiration in all of the fresh veggies!  The ironic thing is that until just recently, veggies were NOT my thing.  I rarely ate anything other than lettuce and maybe a tomato.  Now, I still have an aversion to some veggies (cauliflower, you will never be cooked in my house) but for the most part, I have found myself really enjoying them!  This chicken recipe is a HUGE crowd pleaser!  I have made it twice for get-togethers at my gym and it disappears quick (especially for the kids!)  It’s easy to make gluten free if you use a gluten free soy sauce too!  The salad was a Bobby Flay inspiration!  The man knows how to grill anything and I love his food.  I made my own version of a salad he made on one of his shows and LOVE how it turned out!  You can eliminate the bread if you want to make it Paleo or gluten-free, but the bread was delicious as it absorbed the dressing from the salad!

Honey Lime Grilled Chicken


  • 2-3 lbs chicken of choice (I did a combo of wings and bone-in thighs)
  • 4 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup honey
  • The juice of 1 limes
  • The zest of 1 lime
  • 2 garlic cloves (crushed)
  • 4 Tbsp chili garlic sauce

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl whisk all of the ingredients together and marinade the chicken for at least one hour (I marinated for 4-5 hours).

Once you are ready to cook, remove the chicken to a cooking sheet lined with foil and pour the marinade into a small sauce pot.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer, reduce into a nice glaze and set aside.

Cook your chicken in the oven for 30 minutes.

Heat your grill to high heat and finish cooking the chicken on the grill while brushing the remaining glaze on your chicken until you get some nice grill marks on it.

This is a great chicken kabob recipe as well – just skip the oven and grill to perfection!


Grilled Ratatouille & Ciabatta Salad


  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 yellow squash
  • 1 zucchini
  • Olive oil, for brushing
  • 1 loaf ciabatta, split in half horizontally (optional but HIGHLY recommended!)
  • 12 cherry tomatoes

Prepare your dressing by combining the basil, parsley, vinegar, garlic, olive oil and salt & pepper.  Set aside until ready to dress the salad.

You will want to grill your vegetables and bread.  Brush your bread with olive oil.  You can cut your vegetables however you like and grill them, but I found it was easiest to cut them to fit on wooden skewers, brush with olive oil and grill.  It makes it easier to manage while on the grill.  You’ll want to grill the veggies and bread until you get some good grill marks and the veggies are tender but not too soft.  Cut your veggies into 1 inch pieces, place in a large bowl and toss with your dressing.  Cut your bread into 1 inch cubes.  Serve your salad over a handful of ciabatta cubes with another spoonful or so of dressing.

Get all THREE of our eBooks – “Met Flex”, the Recipe Guide, and the Meal Planning Guide – for just $19.95! This also includes a 14 day Science Lab trial so you can work with our staff. 
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“4 New Research Tips For Better Performance and Body Composition” By Dr. Mike T Nelson


June has been a busy month as I have been jumping from conference to conference, both presenting and attending.  Whoo ha.   Paul asked me to give you a breakdown of the top tips and tricks I learned along the way to boast your performance and improve your body composition.

The amazing part about conferences is that they’re really cutting edge.   Many times the data presented will not be out in formal journals for many months.   Here are some highlights.

Dr. Layne Norton’s VIP Camp in Tampa FL, June 2014

This was a pretty awesome experience to say the least due to the caliber of both presenters and coaches.  It is very rare to find highly educated researchers and practitioners in the same space.

Peak Week by Dr. Joe Klemczewski

The short version is simple:  Stop with the stupid last minute “water manipulation tricks”

This really only applies to those looking to compete in physique-based contests but it is one of those myths that will just not die!

You do not need to drink 3 gallons of water, salt the piss out of your food 2 weeks before a show, and then suck on ice cubes the day of the show to “trick” your body into losing more water.   Anyone looking to outsmart their body is in for a rude kick to the nut sack.   Or as my boy Dr. Jeremy Loenneke would say, “You are just not that smart.”  I am guilty of this too and have tried to outsmart my body in the past.  It ended poorly.

Physiology 101 tells us that your body keeps a very strict control over water and sodium/electrolytes. It has to do this in order to survive.  Cutting back on water will just reduce the amount of mean systemic filing pressure at some point and make all your hard work dieting appear worse.  Yes, worse.   If your blood volume is low, you are going to look more “flat” and it will be very hard to get a pump in the muscles.

Dr. Joe Klemczewski gave an amazing talk on this aspect and went into a lot more detail.   He has prepped many many natural competitors and they …gasp…..drank water right until they stepped on stage.  Ditto for other coaches such as Layne, Dave Goodin, etc

The cold reality is that those looking to put faith into magical changes in the days leading up to a competition are just not lean enough.  Sorry.

Judges don’t help this at all by telling competitors time and time again that “You had just a bit of water covering your quads.”, etc.   It is probably a way for them to save face than to tell someone who dieted for 24+ weeks, worked their butts off, and felt just above dog poo status for weeks that they were just not lean enough.  This unfortunately perpetuates the myth.   And yes, if people chose to use drugs they can have side effects that may cause water retention and competitors have used other methods such as diuretics to lose water.   Not only is this illegal, it can be deadly and has killed competitors in the past.   Do not do it.

Take away #1:  If you are a natural competitor looking to step on stage, don’t cut your water.


Mike (right) with Layne Norton

Meal Frequency by Dr. Bill Campbell

Dr. Campbell gave a great talk about the research behind meal frequency.

I am sure you have heard people say stuff like:

“You need to eat multiple times per day to keep your metabolic rate stoked!”


“Eating multiple times per day is the best way to burn more fat!”

Are those statements really true?

Well, if you look at the research there are not too many studies that only compared meal frequency: meaning that the percentages from protein, fat and carbs along with total calories were held exactly the same, only the number of meals were different.

What Dr. Campbell showed is that the data does not support the notion that increased meal frequency is beneficial for fat loss.   It did not show it was bad for it either – just pretty equivocal.

The research demonstrates that eating more meals per day is not bad but does not seem to have any magical fat loss properties.  Eating 3-5 times per day is a reasonable expectation.

Take away #2: Increased meal frequency does not appear to be advantageous for fat loss when calories and macronutrients are the same. 

There were many many great talks at Layne’s camp for sure and I don’t have space here to list all of them.

The International Society of Sports Nutrition Annual Conference, Clearwater FL, 2014

The ISSN as it is commonly known by is a great mix of practical and uber egg heads.  My kind of people!

Here are just a few highlights:

Neurological Benefits of Creatine Supplementation by Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky

Amazing talk!   I’ve been following the research on creatine over the years and more and more uses are being found.    The short version is this – creatine is awesome!

Creatine was actually found in the sports nutrition field and then found application in other aspects, especially now in neurology.  Many times the sports nutritionists and even exercise physiologists are the red headed step children of the medical community.  Everyone agrees exercise and nutrition are important, but not much beyond that.  Tell MDs that you research supplements and wait for a lecture about how evil sports supplements are now and what a profound waste of time for precious athletes to see if they can put on another pound of muscle or take 1/10 th a second off their sprint time.   Where is the medical research?

I remember attending Experimental Biology conference a few years ago with Dr. Lonnie Lowery and a researcher (Dr. Gabe Wilson) put up a picture of Arnold from his Conan days when presenting about BCAAs and said “…and maybe some people want to look like this…”   A huge gasp came over the crowd.  How dare a researcher say that people may want to look better too!

Back On Track

Even now with tons of research, many docs are reluctant to use creatine; even though they give drugs that have known nasty ass side effects.  Dr Tarnopolsky is a PhD and an MD who works as a clinical neurologist.  He presented some very cool data on mice where creatine was shown to reduce the risk of TBI—tramatic brain injury.  TBI results from many small “micro traumas” that happen from impact.  It has been seen in older football players and can be quite debilitating.

Critics may cry that it was a mouse stud – humans are not mice so how do we know it applies to us at all?  Unfortunately, no IRB is going to approve a study where humans get smacked in the head in a randomized fashion to see if one group has less brain damage.   Any volunteers?

Doses of creatine have been used in the 10-20 gram range and it does cross the blood brain barrier.   The biggest side effect he said was some GI distress in about 5%of the people—pretty much nothing considering the most common used drug (prednisone) has a laundry list of side effects including fluid retention and massive muscle loss over time, which leads to further impairment of their movement.

Take away #3 – creatine is good, cheap, and appears to have some nice preventive effects in neurologic disorders.

Metabolic Adaptation Panel Discussion (with Dr. Norton, Dr. Smith-Ryan, Dr. D’Agostino, Dr. Nelson)

I could retitle this one as “Poke the Hornet’s Nest and See What Happens”.

This was a packed house of about 250 people in attendance as Dr. Abbie Smith-Ryan moderated a panel discussion on metabolic changes with low calorie diets with Dr. Dom D’Agostino, myself, and Dr. Layne Norton.

Judging by the turnout and that we had some many questions afterwards for another hour after the discussion was done, it was a hot topic.   Much of that is the “Layne Norton Effect” though (LNE) as he draws discussion everywhere – which is great.

What Is Metabolic Adaptation?

As you cut calories, your body will decrease your metabolic rate a bit.   This does not mean it drops like a stone if you miss a meal or even decide to fast for 24-48 hours, but it will change based on how much you eat.

The nice part is that when you eat more, your metabolic rate will slowly go back up.  It is not fixed in stone.  The trick is that it does not appear to reach a super low level either.   Some complain that their metabolic rate is “damaged” and I got into depth on this in the Metabolic Flexibility for Fat Loss Ebook (shameless plug I know).

Dr. Dom showed data on the possible use of ketogenic diets as a way to lower calories and perhaps not see a big drop in metabolic rate.  A ketogenic diet is one that is moderate in protein, very low in carbs (less than 50 grams per day in many cases) and very high in fats.   In that state, your body produces ketones (similar to fat) that are used directly by muscles and your brain for fuel.   Ketones appear to have beneficial effects to combat the risk of oxygen toxicity that some Navy divers can encounter doing dives with rebreathers (more stealth and no bubbles).

Dr. Layne Norton discussed some research showing that the amount of times you diet and regain weight may have detrimental effects on your metabolic rate, thus making it harder to lose fat the next time.    He had a term called YOLO aka You are Only Lean Once.  He is a big proponent of “reverse dieting” where you work your calories back up over time to increase your metabolic rate.  I would agree with that approach and at ETP we are very big on working to expand your capacities.

I presented some cased studies of heart rate variability (HRV) and stalled progress.  HRV is a way to measure the stress on your nervous system.  I showed where 2 clients I had (a figure competitor and a burnt out crossfitter) came to me with signs of being classically overtrained.  When that happens, accessory movement grind to halt and people feel like poo, thus burn fewer calories (and many times don’t train).  How much HRV is linked to metabolic adaptation is not fully understood, but it is a measurement that you can do each AM and it does correlate to overall stress.

Take Away #4 – your metabolic rate is not fixed in stone and you can change it over time.


Now you are armed with some of the latest information from the geeky research world of nutrition and exercise physiology.   Go forth and apply for greater performance and better body composition!

–Mike T Nelson, CSCS, MSME, PhD

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Bacon (Yes! I said bacon) Rubbed Chicken Kababs

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So, while looking for some inspiration for recipes, I came across one that called for bacon paste…BACON PASTE?  It’s simply pureeing some raw bacon in your food processor until it’s a paste.  You can then use it to flavor ANYTHING!!!! (As long as you are cooking it)  The possibilities are endless with this one…add it to your bolognese, burgers, meat rub….oh boy!  What a discovery.  So today, I decided to make some chicken kababs since I have a plethora of chicken in my freezer.  The rub has got some kick to it, but pair it with my sweet BBQ sauce (you’ll never buy store bought BBQ sauce again!) and it’s perfect!  If it is too spicy, just cut the chipotle chili powder in half.  Enjoy!!!

Bacon (yes I said BACON) Rubbed Chicken Kababs


  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chipotle chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 4 teaspoons raw honey
  • 2-3 slices raw bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces


Trim chicken of excess fat and cut the chicken into 1-inch cubes. In a large bowl, toss the chicken with the salt. Then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the paprika and chili powder. Put the raw bacon in a food processor and pulse for about 30-45 seconds, until a smooth paste forms, scraping down the sides of the bowl twice throughout. Add the bacon paste, honey and spice mixture to the chicken. Mix with hands or spatula until the ingredients are blended and chicken is coated. Thread the chicken onto the skewers, rolling or folding as needed to maintain 1-inch cubes.

Grill the chicken over medium high heat with lid closed, turning one-quarter of a turn every 2 minutes or so, until browned and slightly charred (about 8 minutes total for chicken breast and 10 minutes for thighs). Brush the top of kebabs with BBQ sauce; flip and cook until sauce is browned in spots, about 1 minute. Brush second side with sauce; flip and cook for another minute or so, until cooked through.

Remove kebabs from grill and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve with remaining BBQ sauce, if desired.

Never Buy BBQ Sauce Again Barbeque Sauce


  • 1 1/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 cup raw honey
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon hickory liquid smoke
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground mustard
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch dissolved in 1/8 cup cold water (optional)


Whisk together all ingredients (except the corn starch in water) in a medium pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. For a thicker sauce, add the corn starch and water mixture and simmer for about 15 minutes, until desired thickness is reached. Keep in mind that it may thicken slightly more while cooling. Serve immediately or cover and store in the refrigerator.

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