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Tips for Success

  1. Commit to your goals.
  2. Go into each day with a plan.
  3. Drink at least 96 fl. oz. of water a day.
  4. When in doubt, eat more protein and vegetables.
  5. Get a food scale that offers metric (“gram”) measurements, and use it to measure as much of what you consume as possible.
  6. Measure everything you consume using the metric system.  (There’s a reason this is listed twice.)
  7. Get an account on, or any nutrient tracking site / app (Like My Fitness Pal). Use this to plan your meals at the start of each day, and change it as your diet changes throughout the day.
  8. Stay within your calorie and macronutrient ranges.
  9. Own a Foam Roller, and use it often on sore muscles.
  10. Stretch on your days off from training.
  11. Make a conscious effort to improve your posture. This will help you avoid injury, and can lead to dramatic increases in strength.
  12. If you feel like you may falter toward your goals, call your trainer. Often times, talking to someone who is working toward their goals helps “keep you honest.”
  13. Contact your trainer whenever you need to.
  14. Make a schedule / develop a routine and stick to it.
  15. During your warm up, visualize your goals, and forge a strong bond between that vision, your mind, and your muscles.
  16. Use the Trainerize App often to track measurements and workouts.
  17. Encourage those around you. This can help you toward your goals, and also builds a support network.
  18. Leave your ego at the door before training. Doing an exercise correctly is more important the amount of weight you’re moving; Proper posture during cardio is more important than your speed / level of resistance.
  19. Stay Positive.
  20. Check the DeVine Physiques blog for the periodic update:
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Training Related Footwear– What should you wear?

I’ve had many clients ask what is appropriate footwear to wear in the gym–  I’ve also had a majority of my clients that never ask at all, and don’t give much thought to it.

At the end of the day, though, what should you wear?  The answer:  It varies.

Cardiorespiratory Training – Running Shoes

Running Shoes

This one is probably a bit obvious, but it’s worth mentioning.  Running shoes should be worn when performing cardio related activities, and could also be considered when performing cardio related activities like plyometrics (“MetCon”).  Running shoes offer a lot in the way of support and shock absorption, but this makes them a less than stellar choice for weight lifting, as it’s not a stable base (in comparison to other shoes).

Plyometrics / MetCon – Training Shoes

Crosstrainer Shoes

Running and Training shoes vary in a variety of ways, but a lot of people view them as the same sort of shoe.  Running shoes tend to be a very lightweight material that is meant to bend and flex, while training shoes tend to be a bit heavier, composed of leather (or synthetic leather) that keeps shape better.  This is useful in MetCon because it helps keep your foot stable during the movements; especially lateral movements where the foot can shift around in the shoe.  Even though they’re more rigid than running shoes, they do offer a level of shock absorption and support that other styles of shoes may not offer.  If you’re only going to buy one shoe for all of your activities, this would be the one to go with, as it can serve many purposes.

Olympic Weightlifting – Weightlifting shoes

Olympic Weightlifting Shoes

Olympic Weightlifting Shoes

Weightlifting shoes are very specific–  They’re rigid, relatively heavy (depending on the style), and have a slightly raised heel that helps keep your ankle in a dorsiflexed position; this in turn helps you to maintain proper form during specific parts of the Olympic lifts.

Weightlifting Shoes assisting the Clean & Jerk

Weightlifting Shoes: Helping you get ATG.

Weightlifting shoes may also be used for squats, as they provide a stable base, and can assist in hitting proper depth (because of the position is puts your ankle in).

Heavy Weightlifting / Powerlifting – Flat Shoes or Barefoot

For heavy weight lifting, a simple flat shoe is the best option out there.  It doesn’t have to be Chuck Taylors, but these are by far the most popular.  I wear, and recommend Leopard Print.

Leopard Print Chuck Taylor All Stars

The leopard print adds 20 lbs. to my deadlift.

This provides you with a stable base, your foot will always be in the anatomical position, and because the material of the sole is relatively thin, it also keeps you low to the ground.  The alternative to this is barefoot, where instead of there being a flat sole to provide a stable base, there’s the Earth serving the same purpose.

. . .  Except when there’s an earthquake.

Personal Trainer vs. Personal Exerciser

I interact with a lot of other personal trainers on forums, and here are some things that come up pretty frequently with new trainers looking for advice from more established trainers:

  1. How intense should a client’s workout be?
  2. How often should you change a client’s workout plan?
  3. Should you listen to clients who want more variety?

I want to take a moment to answer those questions, but before I do that, I want to paraphrase a response that a well seasoned trainer gave:

“You are a personal trainer, not a personal exerciser, right?”

So that begs the question: What exactly is a trainer?  What exactly is an “exerciser”?  A personal trainer is someone who trains you for a specific goal. . .  Which differs from a personal exerciser in that an exerciser is just making sure you get exercise.  Exercise doesn’t have to have a goal; it doesn’t have to have a method; it doesn’t even have to have a plan–  It’s activity with the intention of keeping you active, and that’s it.

Pictured: Not a Trainer.

Pictured: Not a Trainer.

In contrast, a training session is just one piece in a much larger puzzle.  During my consultation with each client, I ask them to sum up their health and fitness goals in one sentence–  This forces each person to really examine their goals and make them clear and concise.  From this goal, I can get started on a plan:

I look at how we would achieve this goal over the long term, and then break this up into smaller chunks (training periods); and within each training period, I can look at how the sessions should be structured.  Even within the sessions, I can look at progressions that can be made and benchmarks that should be met.  (Periodization is a lot more complicated than this, and involves more blocks and periods than I describe, but this is a very simple way of describing it!)  When someone comes in for the first session, I already know how the next 3 months should be done, and beyond in most cases, because I’ve already planned that far ahead. . .

Because I’m a trainer, training someone for a specific goal.

So, to answer those initial three questions:

  1. How intense should a client’s workout be?  As intense as they need to be to achieve their goal; keeping in mind that there are different ways to define intensity.  From an exercise science standpoint, intensity only refers to the amount of resistance you’re using on each exercise, whereas we typically think of intensity as perceived level of exertion.
  2. How often should you change a client’s workout plan?  A workout plan should be properly periodized, and should be changed as often as necessary for them to achieve their goals.
  3. Should you listen to clients who want more variety?  You should listen, and take them into account, and try and work in suggestions where possible–  However, keep in mind that you’re training them for a specific goal, and don’t compromise that.

Creating Goals for the New Year

It’s that time of the year again–  It’s the time when many people start to create their new year resolutions.  While I try and shy away from new year resolutions (I like to set goals throughout the year), I still take this time of year to look at creating some goals.

Resolutions often fail for a myriad of reasons, but it’s usually because no plan of attack was created–  It’s the idea that, January 1st is here, so I must achieve!  When that goal is not realized quickly (great things take time), it becomes discouraging, and by the time February 1st rolls around, we’re looking more concerned with whether it’s a leap year than what we resolved to do for the new year.  (2015 is not, by the way.)

So, choose to make new year goals, rather than resolutions–  but don’t stop there!  Create “SMART Goals.”  “SMART Goals” are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely; by making SMART Goals, you can better set yourself up for success.  Here’s an example for how to create some fitness related SMART Goals:

Step 1: Figure out what you want to accomplish, and be realistic.  This is basically looking the broadest form of your goal, and it should be both attainable and realistic.  My goal is to compete in at least 2 bodybuilding shows this year at a better level of conditioning than last year.

Step 2:  Narrow down your goal into something very specific and measurable.  To continue with an example of one of my goals:  I competed last year at between 6 – 8% body fat. . .  So to create a specific, measurable goal for this year:  I will compete in 2 or more bodybuilding shows at <4% body fat.

Step 3:  Define a realistic deadline.  Deadlines can sometimes be trouble, because if you achieve your goal by the deadline, some have the tendency to give up their new found success / positive changes because to them, “it’s over.”  Part of most goals should include the caveat that this goal is part of a lifelong lifestyle change.  If your goal is to eat healthier by a certain date, your goal should also include moving past that date.  In a similar vein, you should also make sure that these goals can be attained in a reasonable amount of time– wanting to lose 10 pounds in a month is unrealistic and impossible.   To continue with my goal as an example:  I  will compete in 2 or more bodybuilding shows at <4% body fat starting in June 2015, and will correctly reverse diet out of the show to minimize body fat gain.

Step 4:  Turn your goal into a series of benchmarks.  Breaking your goal up into smaller goals will help you immensely–  Not only will it help you stay motivated, but it will also help you stay on track for your goals.  With my goal, I could figure out my starting body fat percentage, and from there, I could calculate how much body fat I would need to lose each month to stay on track toward my goal.  For ease, let’s just say that I would need to lose 4 lbs. / month to reach my goal.  I can then take that a step further and break it down into biweekly goals (weekly would drive me bonkers)–  I would need to lose 2 lbs. every 2 weeks in order to achieve my goals.

And there is one of my goals.  I started at the very broad goal of competing in 2 shows looking better than last year, and have narrowed it down to the SMART Goal of losing 2 lbs. every 2 weeks.  You can make it even more specific if you need, but that’s just one example of how you can set yourself up for success in the new year!

So what are your goals, and how will you achieve them?

Accurately Measuring Frozen Yogurt

Are you a fan of frozen yogurt?  Most people are–  It’s a delicious treat that can be a relatively low calorie dessert, especially when compared to other desserts like ice cream, cake, etc.  Have you tried to track your frozen yogurt in your nutrient tracker?  Probably, but here’s a very important note about measuring your froyo. . .  In most cases, the Calories are reported per fluid ounce (fl. oz.),which is a volume measurement; however, the weight on the scale is just that–  it’s a weight measurement.

Weight measurements are much more accurate than volumetric; especially when you consider how many times you’ve brought a measuring cup to get frozen yogurt. . .  So how do we get our weight measurement converted into a volume measurement to accurately track our frozen yogurt?  Let’s start by figuring out the weight of the frozen yogurt alone–  You will do this by weighing the empty cup, weighing the final product, and then subtracting the values.

Froyo measuring

If the scale measures in ounces, you can skip this next step; however, if the scale measures in terms pounds (e.g. 0.50 lbs.), you will need to multiply the measurement on the scale by 16 to determine how many ounces you have.


Now that you have the accurate amount of ounces measured of froyo, we can use the density of froyo to convert from weight to volume.  I got this information from the head of nutrition at Menchies, and is a general measurement–  there may be slight variations between flavors, but it’s still enough to give us a pretty accurate measurement.  Take your weight measurement and divide it by the density (0.802) to give you your accurate volumetric measurement for your froyo.


These steps need to be repeated if you have different flavors, though if you do a swirl, that makes it easy since half of the volume will be one flavor, and the other half will be the other.  If you get toppings, be sure to subtract those totals from your froyo measurement, and don’t forget to track your toppings as well!

It’s worth noting that some places have started reporting their nutrition in terms of weight, which negates the need for most of this article; however, looking at the nutrition facts for Yogurtland and Menchies, you can see it’s still reported as volume. (In the case of Menchies, they report it “per 1/2 cup,” which is the equivalent of 4 fl. oz.)

The first time you calculate this, it will take a little thought, but after doing it once, it becomes very routine and is simply done on your phone’s calculator.

What is a “Complex Carb”?

Do you know what a complex carbohydrate is?  I would argue that most people don’t, as there are a lot of misconceptions about what makes a complex carb.  The term is thrown around a lot, and is used to mean “slow digesting,” or in some really incorrect cases, “healthy.”  One of my favorites is when people recommend only eating complex carbohydrates like fruits and vegetables.

. . .  Really?  Fruits?  Fruits are mostly “simple carbs,” which many associate with being “bad” for you.

When it comes down to it, whether a carbohydrate is “simple” or “complex” really doesn’t matter.

What is a carbohydrate?

In simplest terms, carbohydrates are sugars.  All carbohydrates, when digested, will be broken down into one of 3 simple sugars, which are called “Monosaccharides;” you may recognize the names of them: Glucose, Fructose, and Galactose.  (This is why carbohydrate choice ultimately doesn’t matter, since all carbohydrates consumed will be broken down into one of these, a topic I’ve covered before.)  (Source)

How are carbohydrates classified?

In broadest terms, carbohydrates can be broken down into one of two camps:  Simple Carbs, and Complex Carbs.  The difference between these is a very easy to understand distinction:  If the carbohydrates are present as single (or double) sugars, it’s a simple carb; if the carbohydrates form longer chains (of more than 2 sugars), it’s a complex carb.  Another name for a complex carb is “starch,” which is defined as a long chain of sugar molecules.  (Source 1 | Source 2)  You’ll notice that “starch” is used to refer to potatoes, which are frequently called “simple carbs” and people are told to avoid them.  That’s not the case.

Pictured: Complex Carbs.

Pictured: Complex Carbs.

That’s all there is to it.  An easy way to think of carbs is like a chain–  Each link on the chain is a single sugar.  If you have 2 or less links, you don’t really have a chain, so instead, you have sugars:


If you 3 or more links, that’s considered a chain, and that is a complex carbohydrate.  This includes a wide variety of foods, from potatoes to rice (both brown and white); from bananas to broccoli:



So should I still pick brown rice over white if they’re both complex carbs?

If you’re going for the most healthful choice, going with the “brown” versions of foods is the better choice–  Brown Rice has more fiber, phytochemicals, and micronutrients than white; while both are tasty and fine to eat, if you want to make a choice that will offer more nutrition (and possibly keep you full longer), brown rice will be better.  Same with breads and other grains–  The whole grain option is a smarter choice, but that doesn’t mean that the alternative isn’t a complex carb.

Don’t get caught up on the nomenclature bandwagon–  Make smart choices that are right for you (which are hopefully the healthful choices), and you will be fine!

Recipe – Grilled Mac ‘n Cheese Sandwich (+ Mac ‘n Cheese)

Recently, I was at an event where they had a bunch of food trucks out, and one of those food trucks was the Grilled Cheese truck.  Of course, their entire menu looked absolutely incredible, but as is usually the case, they don’t have nutrition facts; and I’m sure if I asked them to weigh each ingredient as they prepared it, they would laugh at me.  Or tell me to “live a little.”

Anyway!  I took a picture of their menu so that I could go home and replicate these ideas in my own kitchen, with my own ingredients, with the food carefully measured so that I may know the nutrition facts.  The result?  Grilled Mac ‘n Cheese Sandwich.  This post will offer two recipes, since I first need to tell you how to make my new Mac ‘n Cheese recipe; then I’ll go into the Grilled part of it.

So first, cook your pasta–  I choose a wheat (mostly whole grain) medium shell pasta.  I cooked a serving, which is 56g of pasta.  While that’s cooking, you can exercise immense self control and prepare your bowl to accept the pasta by putting 4g of butter and 100g of cottage cheese in it.

Once the pasta is finished, put it into the bowl, and add 34 of colby jack cheese on top.  Salt to taste (which if you’re me, happens to be a fair amount).  Voila!  Mac ‘n Cheese that is incredibly delicious!

This picture doesn't quite do it justice. . .

This picture doesn’t quite do it justice. . .

Recap of Ingredients + Nutrition Facts for Mac ‘n Cheese

Ingredients: 56g Wheat Medium Shell Pasta; 4g Salted Butter; 100g Cottage Cheese; 34g Colby Jack Cheese.

Nutrition Facts: 425.5 Calories; 47g Carbohydrates; 20g Fat; 25g Protein.

Let’s take it one step further. . .

Grilled mac n cheese recipe

Oh yeah.

Two slices of whole grain bread and another 4g of butter with the previous ingredient list gives us our Grill Mac ‘n Cheese Sandwich.  Butter two slices of whole grain bread and start your skillet at a medium temperature.  Placing the butter side down, lay down a piece of bread, and place Mac ‘n Cheese on top, liberally.  Place the other slice on top with the butter side up.  Cook to the desired crispiness.

grilled mac 'n cheese recipe


How was it?

I absolutely love my Mac ‘n Cheese–  I think it’s incredible!  My Grilled Mac ‘n Cheese needs a little refinement.  It was incredibly delicious, but I feel like it needs a little bit more colby jack cheese added during the grilling phase.  Next time I’ll probably add about 10g of cheese, but it was still fantastic!

Recap of Ingredients + Nutrition Facts for Grilled Mac ‘n Cheese Sandwich

Ingredients: 56g Wheat Medium Shell Pasta; 76g (2 slices) Whole Grain Bread; 8g Salted Butter, 100g Cottage Cheese; 34g Colby Jack Cheese.

Nutrition Facts:  635 Calories; 83g Carbohyrdrates; 22g Fat; 33g Protein.

Important note:  Neither of these are low Calorie options; compared to their “real world” counterparts, they may be a better options, but they’re still incredibly energy dense.  And filling.  And delicious!

Who would you rather be?

I have a client that has seen tremendous progress–  She has lost 17 lbs. since training with me, and started in early May of this year (19 weeks).  Just like most people, though (myself included), she feels as though the progress could be quicker.

In most cases though, I don’t do things for speed–  I do them for quality; the shift in lifestyle; the healthy psyche along with the healthy body.  I stress a nonrestrictive diet because losing fat isn’t about reaching a finish line, or losing any sense of enjoyment with food.  Losing fat is all about making a positive lifestyle change that is healthy and sustainable.

Case in point, this client works in an office where a coworker is also losing weight, and at a slightly faster rate than my client.  That person, though, is on a popular meal replacement diet where they derive a majority of their calories through fluids.

Luckily, my client realized why my method of addressing lifestyle through nonrestrictive dieting is more important.  She asked her coworker what she’s going to do when she’s done with her diet, to which her coworker replied, “Oh, I can’t stop.  I’m just going to keep on the program indefinitely.”

What?  Indefinitely?  Rather than learn how to control your nutrition, you would rather sip protein shakes every day?  Where is the enjoyment from that?  Why not just track your food and control portions?  Why limit yourself?

Luckily, my client recognized this, and even brought that up to her coworker, asking why not just get a grip on her overall nutrition?  The coworker, of course, said that it would be too hard to track their nutrition.

I’ll never lie to anyone and say the nutritional aspect is easy, but which would you enjoy more:  Being able to eat whatever you want, or having to sip on protein shakes every day while not eating most foods out there?  Who would you rather be?

Enjoy the Ride!

6 years ago I was obese (BMI 32.35) and unhealthy. 5 years ago I was skinny and unhealthy. 4 years ago I started living a healthier lifestyle. 3 years ago I became interested in bodybuilding and lifting weights. 2 years ago I got serious about bodybuilding. 1 year ago I decided I wanted to do a bodybuilding competition. About 1 week ago, I stepped on a stage in a posing suit.


It’s been a long journey that is far from over, and it’s fun to look back on other aspects of my life and see how they’ve evolved as well.  6 years ago, when I was obese, smoked a pack of cigarettes a day, and drank heavily, had you told me I would eventually become intensely passionate about health & fitness, and would change career paths to help people realize their health & fitness goals, I likely would have laughed.  And lit up a cigarette to spite.

. . .  But that evolution is a part of the journey.  Everyone is obsessed with the quick fix, or how fast they can get something done, but I’m here to tell you that life is not about the destination!  At the risk of getting too heavy for a blog post, if you look at all of our lives as a book, the first chapter starts in the same way, and the last chapter ends in the same way; what differs are the pages in between.

There are many bodybuilders that never step up on stage, instead opting to do “mock preps” so they can talk about preparing for a show without ever being judged.  They’re too scared to not win; they’re too scared they won’t step out on that stage as the winner they see in themselves, and they can’t handle the thought of failure.

. . .  But failure is where you learn from; and where’s the fun in that!?  With no knowledge of competing in bodybuilding, and without ever having seen a show, I decided to get on that stage, because life is about doing, and it’s about the journey.  It’s about what you learn along the way, whether it’s what foods work well for you while dieting, or how your body responds to dieting, or simply that you’re not very good at posing and you need to practice if you ever want to win a competition.

I didn’t win my first show, but that is perfectly okay!  Rather than talk about a goal I had set for myself, I went out and did it; sure, I may not have won, but I went the distance!  I had a blast, I learned a lot, and I can now call myself a natural bodybuilder.

When you’re on the path toward your goals, it’s important to keep your eyes on the goal, but it’s also crucial that you enjoy the ride while you’re getting there.  While my goal is to get my “pro card” as a natural bodybuilder, what’s the point if I don’t enjoy the journey (that could take years) along the way?  Even if your goals will only take a few months to achieve, what do they mean if you’re not enjoying yourself?

That’s why I advocate flexible dieting; that’s why I advocate taking risks; that’s why I advocate living the dream–  It’s important to enjoy the journey!

Live a Healthier Lifestyle For You!

Once upon a time, I had a nutrition client tell me they were considering doing a physique competition as a way to motivate themselves to lose weight quickly.

I told them this was not a good idea.

Why would you discourage someone?

It’s not very often that I would discourage someone from pursuing a goal.  In fact, that’s the only time I’ve ever done it, and here’s why:  Setting an extreme goal sets you up for failure.  It’s the same reason why crash diets don’t work; there’s a time limit on it–  A finish line.  The mentality this client had was that this would be a way to excuse an extreme drop in Calories for a short period of time to prepare for the show.

The question is, what happens after the show?  What’s the “exit strategy”?  Without developing a healthy relationship with food, and without understanding how to live a lifestyle of moderation, the second the finish line is reached, the pendulum could swing wildly in the opposite direction.

What if they kept up the weight loss?

Of course, continuing to live in a Calorie deficit isn’t the answer either.  That can lead to many different issues, including malnutrition, eating disorders, etc.

So what did you advise they do?

I advised them to lose weight at an appropriate, moderate pace without restricting themselves from any foods.  I advised exploring the idea of a competition down the road, but that should be done as a genuine desire to accomplish doing a show, not as “thinspiration” to achieve extreme weight loss.

Extremism is easy; moderation is difficult.  From a food psychology standpoint, extremism is unhealthy, and moderation is healthy.  Practice moderation–  Enjoy yourself and the food you eat while achieving whatever goal you truly want.  Not only will this set you up for success, but you’ll be much happier in the long run!  Think about it:  Are you happier when you get to eat desserts / enjoyable foods in moderation, or when you completely restrict yourself from sweets?

One of the sources of my happiness.

One of the sources of my happiness.

Plus, transitioning from a flexible diet for weight loss to one of maintenance means the only thing that changes is the amount of energy (Calories) you consume;  this limits the chances of binges, Yo Yo-ing, and disordered eating patterns.

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