Fitness Advice for the "Average Joe"

By Paul Kim (Silicon Valley Entrepreneur & Certified Personal Trainer)


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Developing Lethal Guns (Part 1): Biceps Workout (15-minute biceps workout included)

Ah, your guns… they are kind of a symbol of masculinity for men, and the desire to have great muscular development in the arms is a dream that many guys have. Similarly, for ladies, having nice, toned arms with no “cottage cheese” hanging down from the triceps when your arms are extended, would be a dream come true. But how do you develop fantastic arms? How do you develop guns that the U.S. government would certainly make you register as lethal weapons? In this post, I will talk about developing your biceps, which makes up about 1/3 of your arms, then in a future post, I will cover how to tackle your triceps, which actually makes up the lion’s share.

In general, a lot of people find biceps to be very hard to develop. Developing great biceps takes a lot of time, intense workouts, and smart planning & assessment of your workouts. Understand that nice guns take time to build, so you will not develop them overnight. Also, you have to keep studying your workouts and assess what areas of your biceps you need to further improve – do you need to put more “peak” on your biceps, more mass on the inner or outer portion, or fill out your entire biceps in general? Depending on your needs, you should focus on different exercises that focus and target these areas.

For me, I notice that my biceps respond best to varying types of stimulation applied from different angles, at different rep and weight ranges, at different workout sessions. Basically, all this really means is that I vary days when I go very heavy on my weights with less reps to develop strength and power, with other days when I am doing slightly lighter weights (this does NOT mean LIGHT WEIGHTS for a billion reps) with more exercises, more super-sets, and higher overall reps. These are just different ways to shock your muscles and overload them, to force them to adapt with growth based on different kinds of muscular stimulation. In addition, I go through phases where I focus on different areas of my biceps (e.g. upper portion, lower portion, inner head, outer head). For example, for a 2~4 week period, I will focus mainly on standing barbell curls with a straight bar, where I go heavy and keep my rep range from between 3 to 8 reps to develop mass and strength. By the way, I like standing barbell curls to develop overall strength because (a) you can pack on the most weight on these exercises to get your muscles accustomed to heavy weights (compared to preacher curls or dumbbell curls), (b) it’s great for overall muscular development throughout the entire range of motion for curls (as opposed to exercises like preacher curls that focus a bit more on the upper range of the curling movement), and (c) it allows me to flexibly choose my grip on the bar without the restrictions of a weird-shaped curling bars. As I do standing barbell curls with a straight bar, I vary my grip throughout my workouts (normally, I grab the weights at shoulder width, but then I grab it much wider to work my inner biceps head, and I grab much closer together to work more of my outer head. I will often do just one more exercise during a low-rep and strength and mass building phase, which is either preacher curls which isolate the biceps, or standing dumbbell curls.

Then, I will go for a 2~4 week period when I add more variety to my biceps workout by going higher in my rep range with slightly lower weights, but weights that are heavy enough where I am struggling to do 6~10 reps. During these days, I will move quickly through exercise like the preacher curls, standing dumbbell curls, hammer curls, and cable curls. I go intensely with little rest in between my sets on these days, usually resting only 60~90 seconds between sets (as opposed to the heavier days, when I focus on strength and allow longer rest times in between sets, like 1.5~3 minutes).

If you are not seeing improvements in your biceps, here are the two most common mistakes that I see:

  • Weights are too light or too heavy. You should select weights where you can barely complete your set within the given rep range, with acceptable form. For example, if you are doing reps between 6~10, you should select weights that are heavy enough to where you struggle and fail at, let’s say, 7~9 reps. Conversely, sometimes you see people attempt to do weights where they cannot even get one rep cleanly, and they cheat too much. Remember, cheating a little to get 1 or 2 additional reps at the end of your set is totally fine… but ignoring form and cheating throughout the entire set is not acceptable and ineffective because it works the wrong muscle groups, it increases the chance of injuries, AND you look ridiculous to other people 🙂
  • People do not go to failure or go intensely enough to stimulate growth. Remember, if you do not push yourself hard, you will not attain much. Anything you want or attain in life is the result of butt-busting hard work. Super-athletes like Kobe Bryant, Christiano Ronaldo, and Jerry Rice all got to the top of their games because they’re willing to work harder than everyone else (and of course, tremendous God-given talent). Put in the effort and work, alongside smart planning and assessment, and I promise you will see results.

In the video above, I essentially demonstrate a Tri-set (three different exercises done back-to-back-to-back) of preacher curls, standing dumbbell curls, then hammer curls. This is similar to a super-set (see my post on Super-sets here), but of course, involves one additional exercise that is thrown into the mix. I like this progression of exercises because once I fail on the preacher curls, I can jump to lighter weights on dumbbell curls, and when supinating my wrists outward on dumbbell curls gets difficult, I immediately switch into hammer curls, which works the brachialis and forearm muscles along with your biceps, where I don’t need to turn my palms outward.

15 minute Biceps Workout: (Designed for Busy Working People)

Here’s a quick routine for those of you looking for a quick-but-intense, 15-minute biceps workout. It combines super-sets of 4 different exercises, and they are designed to target your biceps from different angles, with different equipment (barbells, dumbbells, cable) and work different parts of your biceps, to get good, overall biceps development. You will perform 6 sets of super-sets (exercises performed back-to-back with no rest in between), with 3 super-sets of Preacher Curls and Standing Alternating Dumbbell Curls, with 60~90 seconds of rest in between, and 3 super-sets of Standing Alternating Cable Curls and Hammer Curls, with 60~90 seconds of rest in between. Remember to go intensely and push yourself beyond your normal comfort zone, as this is how you stimulate growth. Try it out, and let me know what you think!

Super-set Group 1:

  • Super-set #1:
    • Preacher Curls: Target 8 Reps and go to failure. Use weights where you can do about 6 or 7 and cannot do any more.
    • Standing Alternating Dumbbell Curls: Target 8 Reps on each arm and go to failure. Use weights where you cann do about 6 or 7 and cannot do any more.
    • Rest: 90 seconds or less.
  • Super-set #2:
    • Preacher Curls: Target 8 Reps and go to failure. Use weights where you can do about 6 or 7 and cannot do any more. You may need to go down on your weights a little, if you are too tired from your last set.
    • Standing Alternating Dumbbell Curls: Target 8 Reps on each arm and go to failure. Use weights where you can do about 6 or 7 and cannot do any more. You may need to go down on your weights a little, if you are too tired from your last set.
    • Rest: 90 seconds or less.
  • Super-set #3:
    • Preacher Curls: Target 8 Reps and go to failure. Use weights where you can do about 6 or 7 and cannot do any more. You may need to go down on your weights a little, if you are too tired from your last set.
    • Standing Alternating Dumbbell Curls: Target 8 Reps on each arm and go to failure. Use weights where you can do about 6 or 7 and cannot do any more. You may need to go down on your weights a little, if you are too tired from your last set.
    • Rest: 90 seconds or less.

 Super-set Group 2:

  • Super-set #4:
    • Standing Alternating Cable Curls: Target 8 Reps and go to failure. Use weights where you can do about 6 or 7 and cannot do any more.
    • Hammer Curls: Target 8 Reps on each arm and go to failure. Use weights where you cann do about 6 or 7 and cannot do any more.
    • Rest: 90 seconds or less.
  • Super-set #5:
    • Standing Alternating Cable Curls: Target 8 Reps and go to failure. Use weights where you can do about 6 or 7 and cannot do any more. You may need to go down on your weights a little, if you are too tired from your last set.
    • Hammer Curls: Target 8 Reps on each arm and go to failure. Use weights where you can do about 6 or 7 and cannot do any more. You may need to go down on your weights a little, if you are too tired from your last set.
    • Rest: 90 seconds or less.
  • Super-set #6:
    • Standing Alternating Cable Curls: Target 8 Reps and go to failure. Use weights where you can do about 6 or 7 and cannot do any more. You may need to go down on your weights a little, if you are too tired from your last set.
    • Hammer Curls: Target 8 Reps on each arm and go to failure. Use weights where you can do about 6 or 7 and cannot do any more. You may need to go down on your weights a little, if you are too tired from your last set.
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Turbo-charge your Workouts: the Miracle of Super-sets (20-minute chest workout included)!

Are your workouts getting stale? Can’t seem to get over your strength plateau? Too busy at work, so you can’t seem to put the time into the gym? Well dear brothers and sisters, you gotta try doing some Super-Sets of the same muscle group! Better yet, do super-sets, but do them with strip-sets mixed in, like in my video below (refer to my prior post on Strip-sets). Especially if you have not done them before, they will blast you into a new orbit… I mean, if you do them right, they will catapult you from low-level airspace into the stratosphere of muscular development and maturity. It’s like putting Miracle-Grow fertilizer on your muscles…`you get the point already. Take a look at an example from my recent workout:

What are super-sets, and why are they important? Quite simply, they are an advanced training method in which you do two exercises, one after the other, with little or no rest in between. They can either be for the same or different muscle groups. I’ve found that the primary benefits of super-sets are that they really increase the intensity of my workouts and overload my muscles and force them to adapt, grow, and get stronger. Doing these have helped redevelop the deep “hardness” in my muscles that I’ve been lacking for so long while running startups in the Valley. In addition, for busy bodies, like most of the people reading this blog, it’s an amazing way to reduce the number of total sets that you perform, and thus reduce the time you need to spend in the gym while getting great results. I mean, if you’re like me, you absolutely HATE doing things that waste your time, right? By the way, I usually do these at the tail end of each muscle group. You don’t want to make every set a super-set, since super-sets are really intense, and constantly training like that without ample rest and so-so nutrition could easily lead to over-training and regression.

When you do super-sets here’s what you need to focus on:

  • Use Maximum Intensity. Do these like they are the last things you will do on earth. The more you get closer to your maker, the better your results will be, I guarantee it. That’s why I often do one, even two strip-sets before immediately super-setting a second exercise, to make it that much more intense!
  • Be Mindful of Your Form. Again, it’s okay if your form becomes a little less perfect, especially when you are cranking out your last few reps, but try to get as many with good form as possible. After all, you do have to do them properly to maximize muscular gains.
  • Feel Each Rep, Don’t Just Go through the Motions. Too many people just go through the motions of a super-set, frantically trying to just “finish” or “survive” the set. This is the wrong mindset. Each rep is actually taking you closer to where you want to be physically, so cherish it. Enjoy it (as much as you can, anyways). And most importantly, FEEL it.

Here’s an Example of super-sets that I enjoy doing for my CHEST when I’m pressed for time. Of course, I change up my routine quite a bit, but I mix in the chest workout below on occasion, especially when I’m trying to “cut up” and develop deep density in my muscles. It’s an effective part of a great chest routine. So try it out, and tell me what you think… your chest should be quite pumped and dead after this one!

 

20-MINUTE CHEST SUPER-SET ROUTINE

This routine is ideal for the busy, working professional or parent. You can be in-and-out of the gym in about 20 minutes and still get great stimulation on your chest!

  • FLAT BENCH PRESS: this exercise targets the middle of your chest. Be sure to bring the weight all the way down and touch the middle of your chest before powering it back up. You can vary the tempo of your down (eccentric) and up (concentric) motion to vary the focus and impact it has on your muscles (use faster concentric motion for speed & power training and fast-twitch fiber recruitment). In general, a moderate pace up/down is fine.
    • Set 1: 15 reps. Warm-up Set. Go lightly. Do not go to failure. I use 135 pounds here.
      • Rest 90 seconds.
    • Set 2: 10 reps. Intermediate Warm-up Set. Do not go to failure. Use moderate weights, about 60% of your 1RM (1-Rep Max – heaviest weight for which you can complete exactly one rep).I use 225 pounds here.
      • Rest 90 seconds.
    • Set 3: 6 reps. Heavy Warm-up Set.  Do not go to failure. Use 70~75% of your 1RM. I use 275 pounds here.
      • Rest 90 seconds.
    • Set 4: Stripping Super-Set! Go intensely to failure. Ask a spotter to help you.
      • Start: Use 85~90% of your 1RM. I use 315~335 pounds here (see video). Go to failure.
      • Strip-set: Strip down to about 60% of your 1RM and go until failure again. I use 225 pounds here.
      • Super-set: grab moderately light dumbbells and do as many Flat Bench Dumbbell Flys as you can. By this time, I am pretty tired from doing heavy strip-sets, so I usually use 60~75 pounds.
      • Rest 2~3 minutes.
  • INCLINE BENCH PRESS: Remember to bring the weight down high on your chest. Try touching your chest with your chin… where your chin touches your upper chest (almost at the base of the throat) is where the bar should come down to. If you put the bar too low on your chest (like MOST people do), then you are cheating yourself of growth in your upper pecs, which is the target of this exercise.
    • Set 1: 4~8 reps. Heavy warm-up set. No need for light warm-up, as you are already warmed up from the last few sets. Use 60% of your 1RM for flat bench. I use 225 pounds here.
      • Rest 90 seconds.
    • Set 2: Stripping Super-set! Go intensely to failure. Ask a spotter to help you.
      • Start: Use 70~80% of your 1RM on Flat Bench. I use 275~315 pounds here.
      • Strip-set: Strip down to about 50% of your 1RM on Flat Bench. I use 185~225 here.
      • Super-set: grab moderately light dumbbells and do as many Incline Dumbbell Flys as you can. I use between 50~75 pounds here.
      • Rest 2~3 minutes.
  • DECLINE FLYS: Go wide on your flys on a moderately declined bench. Focus on flexing your pecs/chest when your weights are at the top of the motion. You should feel this at the bottom and sides of your chest.
    • Set 1: 8 reps. Heavy warm-up set. Use dumbbells where you can barely do 8 reps using good form. Remember to go wide on your flys and squeeze your chest when the weights are at the top of the movement. I use 70~80 pounds.
      • Rest 90 seconds.
    • Set 2: Strip-set! Go intensely to failure.
      • Start: Go up ~20% in weight from your prior set. Go to failure. I use ~80~90 pounds.
      • Strip-set: Strip down to about 70% of your prior weights. Go to failure. I use about 60 pounds.
      • Strip-set: Strip down to about 70% of your prior weights. Go to failure. I use about 40 pounds.


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Learn How to Control Your Weight for a Lifetime: Try my 2-week Calorie Counting Challenge!

I’ve spoken to literally hundreds of people over the years who have told me some variation of “I can’t lose weight, no matter how hard I try,” or “I can’t lose this stubborn belly fat,” or for the skinnier, ectomorphic people, “I just can’t gain muscle mass.” Well for the vast majority of them (except for those without serious medical issues), the reason is simple: they’re not creating a sustained caloric deficit (to lose fat) or caloric surplus (to gain weight), primarily because of their haphazardly approach to food intake. Many of these people even exercise regularly. Many of them claim to know “for a fact” that they are eating right and that they are creating a caloric deficit or surplus, but when I ask them point-blank, “How do you know? Are you counting your calories?” their response is some form of “well kind of, maybe”, which means a resounding NO.

Look, if you want to really understand your body’s unique response to food and exercise, and thus lose weight properly (by properly I mean losing fat, not just water weight, while maintaining a healthy & balanced diet), then you need to give counting calories a try. As an example, I’ve used this method to drive my body fat down dramatically into the 4% range right now (from a double-digit level when I started a few months back) to take pictures in the next week or so. Getting my body fat down this low has been very interesting – it looks like I’m constantly in a state of “workout pump” because I’ve gotten so vascular… it feels pretty cool, actually. Now, I don’t recommend sustaining an ultra-low body fat level for too long, as it can be unhealthy (short-term is okay). I’m only doing it temporarily to take pictures, after which I will be jumping back up at least several percentage points from where I’m at now, perhaps to 8% or so, to balance health, aesthetics, and athletic performance.

Why count calories? There are many reasons to do this, but here is a list of the most salient reasons:

  • Get a deep understanding of how many calories you are actually putting into your body and identify your eating flaws, which helps give you the know-how and confidence to control your body weight for a lifetime. For example, by counting calories, I learned that my weight loss was being hampered by my continuous night-time snacking, as well as high beer & wine consumption – I was able to scale these things back, which was the key to controlling my weight.
  • Helps you learn portion control. You will learn how to eat well while staying within your caloric budget.
  • Understand your sources of Calories (Macronutrients) and ensure you get the proper amounts. This helps you to hit various fitness goals, like for working out (e.g. getting enough protein in your diet), preparing for a photo shoot or athletic competition (e.g. adjusting your level of carbohydrate intake to either carb-load for sports or lower your fluid levels for aesthetics), and for overall health (e.g. keeping your fat intake levels in check).

I know most of you guys are really busy with work, kids, or school, so I’ll try to make this as EASY AS POSSIBLE to do and provide practical shortcuts. Here’s my approach below, so just give it a try for 2 weeks, and I promise you that it will make a huge difference in how you manage your weight going forward for the rest of your life.

HERE’S HOW TO GET STARTED, COUNTING CALORIES!

Step 1: Gather everything you need. Most of you will have everything you need already.

  • Body Weight Scale. This is the only required piece of equipment. You will weigh yourself each morning for 2 weeks.
  • Spreadsheet Program (Excel), Tablet (iPad), or Plain Paper. This is where you will record the data each day for the next 2 weeks. You can use a mobile app if you prefer, if you found one that you like.
  • Optional items: Food scale (costs $20~$30) and measuring cups. Don’t worry if you don’t have these – you can just estimate.

Step 2: Determine your Average Daily Caloric Burn. This number is just a broad estimate, and it only serves as a starting point for now. After counting calories, you will understand your true caloric burn much better.

  • Try one of the 3 approaches below to deduce this number:
    1. Use my Simple Approximation approach that I lay out in the Chart Below to find your RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate), then multiply your RMR by the appropriate “Activity Factor”found below to get your Average Daily Caloric Burn:
        • 1.2 (Sedentary): if you are quite sedentary, work at a desk job, and get little exercise.
        • 1.375 (Lightly Active): if you are lightly active and engage in some level of exercise 1~3 times per week.
        • 1.55 (Moderately Active): if you are moderately active and engage in some level of exercise 3~5 times per week.
        • 1.725 (Very Active): if you engage in hard exercise 5~7 times per week.
        • 1.9 (Extremely Active): if you have a physically engaging job (e.g. manual labor) and you exercise hard 5~7 times per week).
    2. Use an online calculator, such as one found here (http://www.start-losing-weight-today.com/rmr.html) to get your RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate), then multiply the number by the “Activity Factor” above. This approach will be a bit more precise than what I propose above, since you are entering your own unique numbers, as opposed to ranges.
    3. Calculate your caloric burn based on all activities you do throughout the day. I won’t get into this one here, as it takes a bit of time to explain, and it’s not necessary for this exercise.

 For example, I have an RMR of 1,650 based on this chart that I created, which I multiply by 1.725 for being very active, which yields around 2,850 average caloric burn per day. Incidentally, I know that this number is low for me because average RMR is based off of “normal” body fat levels (~15% for men), while more muscular people burn more calories – actually, each additional kilogram of muscle burns around 70+ more calories per day. But this figure is a good starting point, regardless. Whatever approach you take, this figure is just an approximation of your actual caloric burn, which you will use to calculate your Caloric Budget. Each person’s metabolism and musculature is different, so your actual caloric burn can vary tremendously from this.

Step 3: Set Your Caloric Budget by using the Average Daily Caloric Burn you calculated in Step 2 and your own Weight Goal.

  • Caloric Budget: Take your Average Daily Caloric Burn from Step 2 and subtract (lose weight) or add (gain weight) calories to this number as appropriate. For example, if you want to lose 1 pound per week, you must target eating 500 less calories than you burn per day (500 kcal x 7 = 3,500 kcal, which is about 1 pound of fat). If my daily caloric burn is 2,800, then I should set a caloric budget of 2,300 per day to lose a pound a week. Conversely, you should create a caloric surplus to gain weight.
  • Unless you are very experienced with dieting, you should not try to lose more than 2 pounds per week (1,000 caloric deficit per day). Also, DO NOT go under 1,200 calories per day for women and 1,800 calories per day for men without first consulting your doctor or physician.

Step 4: Record everything you eat and weigh yourself every morning. Do this for at least 2 weeks.

  • Finding Nutrition Information: Use food labels and use a nutrition calculator like this one: http://caloriecount.about.com/
  • Key things to record:
    • Food names. If you have trouble finding the nutrition information for a certain food, then you can even break out the food into its components (I do this frequently). For example Roast Beef Sandwich can be broken out into 2 slices of wheat bread, Roast Beef (4 oz), Kraft American Cheese, Mustard, Veggies.
    • Total Calories. Enter the value for each food, then total it for the day.
    • Total Protein (grams). This is important if you are working out and need to take at least 1 gram per pound of body weight.
    • Total Carbohydrate (grams).
    • Total Fat (grams). A general guideline for your health is to try and keep fat as a % of total calories to under 30%.
    • % of Calories from each Macronutrient (protein, carb, fat). Calculate this from the total amounts for the day. Each gram of protein & carb has 4 calories and each gram of fat has 9 calories.
    • Comments (optional) – you can talk about how you are feeling, looking, or whatever else you think is important.
    • Body weight each morning. You will use your this to adjust your caloric budget on a weekly basis.
    • Below is what my calorie counting spreadsheet looks like, as well as a sample eating day. Notice the items that I track, the comments that I leave, and how I break down some foods into their components (e.g. see my jelly sandwich breakfast).

  • Helpful tips & tricks:
    • Copy and Paste in Excel. People often eat similar foods repeatedly, so once you record a food, it’s easy to copy and paste this information over in your spreadsheet, which saves a ton of time.
    • Pre-fill the information and PLAN your Calories for the Day. Pre-filling information helps to keep you under your caloric budget and gives you a good food roadmap for the day.
    • Leave your calorie counting spreadsheet open at work or at home and record what you eat whenever you have time. If you don’t have time, just log the foods you eat first, then come back later to fill in the nutritional information. You can “hide” the fact that you have this spreadsheet open from your colleagues or boss by keeping your work items on top in your PC but use the [Alt] + [Tab] keys to quickly access your spreadsheet whenever you need to.

FYI, I try to keep somewhat close to a 40:40:20 ratio of protein, carbs, and fats in my diet. Of course, this ratio is commonly very off (and that’s okay!), but that’s the ratio I strive towards. Also, remember to get ample protein in your diet (i.e. if you are doing resistance training, you should get at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight).

Step 5: After one week, adjust your caloric budget based on your starting and ending weight. This is an iterative process, and it’s a very important one.

  • Compare your starting weight with your ending weight for the week. If you are trying to lose weight, did you lose weight, and did you lose at the rate that you expected? Based on this information, adjust your Caloric Budget that you calculated in Step 3. For example, if your Average Daily Caloric Burn is 2,500 and you’re trying to eat 500 calories less per day and thus set your Caloric Budget at 2,000 calories (to lose 1 pound per week), then check if you lost a pound of weight. If you lost more than 1 pound, then you may want to adjust your Caloric Budget upwards by a little bit to slow the pace. Conversely, if you lost less than 1 pound or even gained weight, then you may want to adjust your Caloric Budget lower. The spreadsheet below shows how I track my data. Yours DOES NOT need to look this complex. You can just track your daily body weight, then make adjustments to your caloric budget on a weekly basis.

  • Don’t worry about daily weight fluctuations, which are mainly due to things like food, fluid, and waste levels in your body. For me, I’ve seen my body weight spike up and down 3+ pounds per day, measured at about the same time each day, but I don’t worry about it. All that I’m concerned about are longer trends, at least of a week.
  • Keep in mind that if you are gaining or losing muscle during this weight loss or gain phase, then it can throw your numbers off a bit. For example, during many phases of weight loss, you lose fat and lean muscle as well, so your weight loss is not 100% from fat. Also, in some cases, if you are training hard while losing weight, then 1 pound of weight loss may be more than 1 pound of fat loss + lean muscle gains. However, this is practically impossible to track, so you should adjust your caloric budget based on weight loss and ignore the effect of muscle gains or losses.

Step 6: Repeat Steps 4 and 5 until you hit your weight goal. That’s it!

FYI, below are some additional eating tips for when you are eating out at fast food & other restaurants, to help you stay within your caloric budget:

  • Try eating sandwiches (no mayonnaise, no cheese) from places like Subway, Lee’s Sandwiches, or any other Deli/sandwich place, Chinese Chicken Salad with regular dressing (no crutons, bread, or fried wonton), fish or chicken dishes, and lots of vegetables or salads (but be careful about thick dressing, as they are loaded with fat and calories).
  • Try to stay away from fried foods, like French fries, fried chicken, etc. If you’re at KFC, for example, try their grilled chicken instead of their fried chicken.
  • You can eat red meats, but try “protein-style” eating, which means eating the meats without a lot of the rice or breads. You can eat a lot of veggies, as they are low in calories. The reason I suggest “protein-style” is not because carbohydrates like brown rice, breads, and pasta are necessarily bad for you (quite the contrary) but because when you are dieting, you need to keep total calories down, and so I prefer to prioritize protein (needed to rebuild/repair tissue) and because generally you will get enough carbs from other foods that you eat throughout the day.
  • Ask for all of your sauces on the side, then only use part of the sauce.
  • Use portion control on everything, especially if the food is high in calories or is considered “junk food.” If you must eat high-calorie junk foods, use extreme portion control and just take a small piece. This helps satisfy your cravings, while keeping most of the junk out of your system.
  • Don’t drink soda unless they have low/zero calories, like Coke Zero. Drink water – it’s good for you!

After INVESTING in this process for at least 2 weeks, I guarantee that you will understand your body much better, get an intuitive feel for how many calories and amounts of nutrients you are taking in, and you will be well on your way to obtaining your ideal body weight. For me, I’ve made it a habit to record my diet now, and I plan to do this into the foreseeable future. Try counting calories for at least 2 weeks, and let me know what you think! I’d love to hear if this is helpful to you!


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Wanna Be Fit? Then Don’t Forget to STRIP!

Yes, if you wanna be fit, then don’t forget to STRIP. Say what??? No, I’m not encouraging you to bare it all on a dimly lit stage in front of hundreds of ogling fans… I’m talking about “stripping” the weights down when you cannot do another repetition of a certain weight, so that you can crank out additional reps at lighter weights (these are also called “Drop Sets”). This way, you overload your muscles and force much more muscular development than if you were to stop because you cannot perform another rep at a given weight.

Doing short bursts of strip sets is particularly effective for working professionals and parents with kids at home, who don’t have a ton of time to invest in the gym. Thus, performing just a few intense strip-sets in lieu of high-volume workouts, can give you the results that you need without keeping you in the gym for hours. And as always, performing strip sets are recommended for both men and women. At the bottom of this post, I give an example of a shoulder routine that I bang out in 15~20 minutes when I’m pressed on time.

Take a look at the video below:

Here, I demonstrate how stripping is done for side lateral raises, which targets the lateral (side) head of the shoulders, as opposed to the anterior or posterior. I enjoy doing these sitting down because (a) it makes it harder to perform than standing up and (b) it tends to keep my form more strict and the load focused on my lateral deltoids, so I’m not employing muscles in my back to complete the motion. Keep in mind that I am intentionally going quite heavy and sacrificing just a little bit of form (i.e. not going up quite as high on all the reps) in this video to really push myself, in order to trigger additional stimulation and growth in my muscles. Although I’m a firm believer in keeping my form strict to isolate and stimulate the proper parts of your muscles while minimizing involvement of non-key muscle groups, on your heaviest sets, or when you are trying to trigger additional overload and stimulation, using heavier weights with less strict form (“cheating principle”) seem to work wonders for me (make sure your form does not become completely compromised, however, as this is counterproductive). Finding the right balance in this strict form versus heavier weight spectrum that works for you is a vital key to unlocking deep, additional development in your muscles that you never thought was possible.

For example, when I’m in a rush, here’s an abridged shoulder workout based on strip sets that doesn’t take too long to complete. It allows me to bang out an intense shoulder workout, hits all three of the major areas of the deltoids (anterior, lateral, and posterior heads), and I can be in and out of the gym in like 20 minutes flat. Check it out:

  • Dumbbell Shoulder Press (Set 1): Warm-up set x 12 Reps with light weights. Do not go to failure. You are warming up your muscles. Rest 60 seconds before the next set.
  • Dumbbell Shoulder Press (Set 2): Intermediate Warm-up set x 8 Reps with moderate weights. Do not go to failure. You are still warming up your muscles. Rest 90 seconds before the next set.
  • Dumbbell Shoulder Press (Set 3): Do this one to failure, then perform 3 more strip sets until you cannot do any more reps.
    • Perform 8~10 Reps with weights you can only do for 8~10 reps. Do as many as you can with reasonable form.
    • Strip down about 25~35% in weight and do as many reps as you can.
    • Strip down about 25~35% in weight and do as many reps as you can.
    • Strip down another 25~35% in weight and do as many reps as you can. Completely burn out your anterior deltoids.
    • Rest 120 seconds before the next set. You will need this rest 🙂
  • Barbell Upright Rows (Set 1): Skip the warm-up set, as your shoulders are already warmed up from the shoulder presses. You will do a “one-and-done” set here, with 3 strip sets.
    • Perform 8~10 reps with weights you can only do for 8~10 reps. Do as many as you can with reasonable form.
    • Strip down about 25~35% in weight and do as many reps as you can.
    • Strip down about 25~35% in weight and do as many reps as you can.
    • Strip down another 25~35% in weight and do as many reps as you can. Completely burn out your deltoids.
    • Rest 120 seconds before the next set. You are going to feel exhausted.
  • Side Lateral Raises (Set 1): Skip the warm-up set, as your shoulders are already warmed up from the shoulder presses. You will do a “one-and-done” set here, with 3 strip sets.
    • Perform 8~10 reps with weights you can only do for 8~10 reps. Do as many as you can with reasonable form.
    • Strip down about 25~35% in weight and do as many reps as you can.
    • Strip down about 25~35% in weight and do as many reps as you can.
    • Strip down another 25~35% in weight and do as many reps as you can. Completely burn out your lateral deltoids.
    • By now, you are probably dying.
  • Bent-over Raises (Set 1): Skip the warm-up set, as your shoulders are already warmed up from the shoulder presses. You will do a “one-and-done” set here, with 3 strip sets.
    • Perform 8~10 reps with weights you can only do for 8~10 reps. Do as many as you can with reasonable form.
    • Strip down about 25~35% in weight and do as many reps as you can.
    • Strip down about 25~35% in weight and do as many reps as you can.
    • Strip down another 25~35% in weight and do as many reps as you can. Completely burn out your real deltoids.

Hooray, you are done with your shoulder workout! This should have taken you about 20 minutes or less to complete, and you should be completely exhausted on your shoulders. If you’re not, you did not go intensely enough. Try this workout, and let me know what you think!


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How to get Incredible, Six-Pack Abs (Part 2): Metabolic Circuit Training


This is the second part of my series on getting incredible, six-pack abs that command attention. Here, I will lay out my “CORE WORKOUT 2”, which I perform on alternate days to “CORE WORKOUT 1” that I described in detail in a prior post.

As a brief summary of my ab workout philosophy, your abdominals are muscles, just like your chest, biceps, quadriceps, etc., and thus they need to be blasted with weights to reach their full potential. Have you seen abs where the “six-pack” is very big, pronounced, and seem to jump out at you? You know the kind where each pack is big and full? Compare that to a person’s six-pack that looks flimsy and weak (these were likely developed without using weights). Remember, this workout philosophy applies to both men and women, as women need to develop their ab muscles too in order to make them more pronounced.

Now, having stated my belief in the use of weights for ab development, I’ve found that combination core workouts that alternate weighted exercises with un-weighted circuit training tend to give my muscles the most well-rounded development that I can get. So here’s my “CORE WORKOUT 2” exercise program. Of course, I vary these exercises and continue to keep my muscles guessing so that they don’t adapt to a single workout regimen. In future posts, I will discuss the principles of OVERLOAD and other important philosophies that form the foundation of great physique development, which I’m a firm believer in.

SAMPLE: CORE WORKOUT 2 (CIRCUIT-STYLE):

Perform the workouts below in the precise sequence, as I’ve designed them to target different parts of your core as you progress through the workout. They are essentially super-sets (sets performed back-to-back without rest), followed by brief rest. Do the entire workout 2x through, and stick to the allotted exercise and rest times. It will take you just 16 minutes to complete the entire workout program, and you will be exhausted. The added benefit of these types of metabolic exercises where you perform multiple exercises back-to-back with minimal rest is that they burn more calories over a period of 2 days than a static exercise program of the same duration.

You should be sweating hard, if you do this workout correctly! Once you get accustomed to this, you can increase the duration of each exercise to increase the intensity. For example, instead of 30 seconds per exercise, you can move to 45 seconds (and the rest would be for 90 seconds).

Let me know what you think about this program, and tell me if you’d like me to blog about a specific topic. Stay tuned for more fun and practical workout programs, tips, and diet guides in future posts. Also, I encourage you to sign up to receive my posts by email to make sure you never miss a post! Enjoy!


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How to Get Incredible, Six-Pack Abs (Part 1): Weighted Core Exercises

We all want amazing, washboard-like, six-pack abs, right? You know, the kind you could wash your laundry on… the kind where you lift up your shirt, and your abs scream “BA-Dow, how ya like me now?” Well the good news is, everybody reading this post can get killer abs… but then the bad news is that most of you reading this post will never get them because you’re not willing to put in the kind of butt-busting work necessary to show a nasty six-shooter… but in case you’re one of those people who are willing to put in the work to transform your mid-section, read on.

Theoretically, getting a six-pack to show is pretty straightforward, and depends on two factors. First, your body fat has to be low enough to make out the outlines of six-pack abs… anecdotally, I find that most people need to start approaching the 10% body fat level to see the outlines of a six-pack forming under the skin. You can refer to my prior post, where I discuss how to lose weight effectively without needless suffering. In future posts, I will detail my process to best track and monitor caloric intake and burn, as well as workout strategies you can employ to maximize caloric burn for each workout session by doing specific exercises with minimal rest, such as High-Intensity Interval Training. Second, your abdominal & core muscles are just like any other muscle in your body in that they require stimulation to grow (i.e. you have to work them out hard). Contrary to some people’s beliefs, 99% of the readers here need to satisfy both of these requirements (not just one or the other), in order to show rock-hard abs.

For the purposes of this post, I’m going to focus on the second requirement for getting six-pack abs, which is to work them out like there’s no tomorrow. And before we begin working out our abs, it’s important to understand a few guidelines regarding showing phenomenal abs:

  • First, you need to develop strength in your ENTIRE CORE AREA to truly develop amazing abs. Your core consists of the “six pack” area (Rectus Abdominis), the side of your waist (Internal/External Oblique, Transversus Abdominis), and your lower back muscles. The reason that you need to blast your entire core, as opposed to just the front part of your abs, is that your body is part of an interdependent system, so you are likely to get injured or at least severely limit your ab development if you have weak muscles in the rest of your core. For example, I train many people who cannot work their abs hard because their lower back hurts too much when they do situps. This is because their lower back muscles are much weaker than their abs, and thus the lower back is limiting their ability to improve their abs, which totally sucks. To rectify this situation, I always make these people work their lower back muscles through exercises like back extensions, or by making them do a lot of barbell squats which naturally strengthens the lower back. Only after strengthening their supporting muscles do I see improvement in their abdominals.
  • Second, it’s not sufficient to just go through the motions, but you must focus on and “feel” each repetition you perform. Doing an unmotivated set of 20 reps on decline bench situps will result in minimum gains for you. Instead, you must put all your energy and concentration into each repetition, and most importantly, you need to learn to “feel” the contraction in your abs. For example, I can do one rep of a twisting decline situp and pause at the top of the concentric motion (i.e. muscles flexed) and completely “feel” the muscle contracting, straining, and most importantly growing. I concentrate on each rep that I perform, so that I don’t waste any contractions. If you do not “feel” your muscles working properly, you are wasting a lot of your efforts.
  • Third, I believe in using a combination of core exercises using weights and no weights to achieve full development in the mid-section. There is a bit of “theoretic divide” between those who espouse weight-free, super high-rep workouts to improve the core, versus those who believe that the core muscles require weight stimulation to reach their maximum potential. For me, I find that having a good balance between the two works the best, and whether you are a man or woman, you must not neglect weighted workout sessions because just like other muscles in your body, your core needs to be overloaded and stimulated with weights to develop to their full potential. You don’t want to have small, shapeless abs that barely show through your skin, even at a very low body fat level. As such, I employ a core training regimen that combines weighted exercises with non-weighted, higher-rep exercises mixed in, sometimes on the same day, but usually on alternating days.

So this brings us to my core workout regimen. I usually work out my core 3x ~ 5x per week for 15~30 minutes each session, at a very high intensity. As I mentioned above, I usually alternate between my “weighted” days, as well as my “un-weighted” days, and both days’ workout structures are very different in terms of exercises and rest. For example, if I work my core 4x this week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, I would do CORE WORKOUT 1 (with weights) below on Monday and Friday, and I would do CORE WORKOUT 2 (without weights) on Wednesday and Saturday. I have detailed my CORE WORKOUT 1 below, and in a future post, I will provide my CORE WORKOUT 2.

Here are some instructions for my core workout below: be intense, and go to failure on each set that you perform. Your best gains do not come in the 10~15 reps prior to achieving failure, but in the final few reps that you squeeze out after your body fails and tells you it can’t do any more reps. Learn to push yourself beyond your comfort level, and the results will really show in your abs. Rest only as long as necessary to get your heart rate down a bit, so that you can go intensely again on your next set (usually about 60~90 seconds). Be careful not to injure yourself, as this workout is very intense if performed correctly. Also, always check with your physician or doctor before starting any exercise or nutrition regimen, especially if you have prior medical conditions or injuries that contraindicate physical activity.

SAMPLE: CORE WORKOUT 1 (WEIGHTED):

SETS 1~4:   Decline Bench Situps (Weighted):

Form: Grab a weight plate or a dumbbell. I usually use between 80~120 pound dumbbells for this exercise, but I advise that you go much lighter (such as a 10 pounds or 25 pound weight plates). If you use weight plates, cross your arms over your chest, with the plate flat on your chest. If you use dumbbells, hold each side of the dumbbell securely while holding the dumbbell against your chest. The more you can decline the angle of the bench, the more difficult and effective this workout will be. Remember to squeeze your abs at the top of each motion and hold for 1-2 seconds before slowly returning to the bottom. Remember to “feel” each muscular contraction.

  • Set 1: Perform 20 warm-up reps with no weights. Do not go to failure. The purpose is to get blood flowing into your abs and prepare to shock it with weights on your next sets.
  • Sets 2~4: Perform 10~20 reps. Use weights where you go to failure on each set (i.e. until you cannot do any more on your own) in this rep range (10~20). If you really want to destroy your abs and accelerate results, after you go to failure on this exercise, immediately put the weights down and do some more reps without weights until you go to failure again; then, immediately grab the decline bench with both hands and assist your abs in squeezing out even more reps until you can’t do any more. Your abs should be exhausted by the 4th set.

SETS 5~8:   Machine Crunches with Swiveling Seat (Weighted):

Form: Put appropriate weights on the machine and swivel the seat to one side, so that you’re focusing on working your abs, obliques, and serratus. The motion here can be awkward for beginners, as you’re crunching your mid-section in an angle, so it’s especially important for you to “feel” your muscles contract on each rep. Remember to alternate on each set from right side to the left.

  • Sets 5~8: Perform 10~20 reps, alternating sides after each set. Use weights where you go to failure on each set (i.e. until you cannot do any more on your own) in this rep range (10~20).

SETS 9~12:   Back Extensions (Weighted):

Form: Remember to keep a natural arch in your back, and look directly forward while performing this exercise. Cross your arms in front of your chest while holding a weight plate. Hold and squeeze your muscles at the top of the motion. This exercise is excellent for strengthening your lower back, which in turn allows you to use more weights and perform higher reps on your ab exercises. Be careful not to hurt your lower back. If you feel a stinging pain, you should stop this exercise immediately. 

  • Set 9: Perform 20 warm-up reps with no weights. Do not go to failure. The purpose is to get blood flowing into your lower back muscles and prepare to shock it with weights on your next sets.
  • Sets 10~12: Perform 20~30 reps. Use weights where you go to failure on each set (i.e. until you cannot do any more on your own) in this rep range (20~30).

Try this out, and tell me what you think! If you perform it correctly, it will be a butt-kicker, and you will experience significant improvements in strength and muscularity in your core. Also, stay tuned for Part 2 of my core workout (CORE WORKOUT 2), which is fundamentally different in format and execution than this core workout (I expect to post this workout shortly). That’s why I alternate the two different workouts, to shock my muscles… I find that they work really well in conjunction with each other! Here’s to getting beautifully-sculpted six-pack abs!


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Eating right doesn’t need to suck! Here are my practical “secrets” to getting your body fat down to 5%!

I spent the last couple days thinking, “what should I talk about in my inaugural fitness blog post?”   Should I talk about how to most quickly get ripped and shredded? Or maybe 30 minute workouts for busy professionals on the go? Or perhaps my bench press routine to press over 2x your body weight? Hmmm… then, I sat down for lunch yesterday, and the perfect topic was literally sitting right in front of me, in the form of mouth-watering tri-tip steak (6 oz), scrumptious brown rice, home-made salsa, and kimchee (yes, I’m Korean)!

Some of you know that I’ve been on a diet now for the last couple of months to shred my body fat down below 5% to take pictures for a new project that I’m doing. I’m losing weight at a gradual pace of around 7 pounds a month, or ~1.5 pounds per week. I’m doing this by eating about 800 calories less per day than I burn (since 3,500 calories = 1 pound of fat, this means that I’m losing 1 pound of fat every ~4.5 days)… right now, I’ve figured out that I’m burning about 3,400 calories per day (averaged out over the week), which means that I’m keeping my diet at around 2,600 calories per day. What was encouraging was that last Friday, I went to get my body fat tested, to ensure I was on the path to getting down to 5%… I got tested via the hydrostatic method (the most accurate body fat testing method) at Fitness Wave in San Jose (http://fitnesswavenorcal.com/)… my result came out to just under 5.9%, which was very encouraging, given I have 3 more weeks of dieting left (I thought that maybe I was at around 7% at that time). I’ve actually lost another pound since the test, so this means that I will use the remaining time to drop body fat at a slower rate by actually increasing my caloric intake to about 3,000 per day… this is awesome, as it means I can eat more snacks each day… in fact, I’m snacking on a bag of baked Pop Chips right now, while I’m writing this post!

Anyways, getting back to the topic of losing weight and dieting while eating good foods… you know, I find that dieting has not been nearly as difficult for me as I thought. You know why? Because I’m literally eating like a king while losing weight. Seriously, DIETING and EATING RIGHT DOES NOT NEED TO SUCK! Now, the only place where I find dieting impacts me negatively, is when I engage in heavily cardiovascular activities, like playing basketball or soccer competitively. Since I play both sports competitively every week, I notice that I have less energy, speed, stamina, and power than usual, but that’s somewhat expected because I’m cutting significant calories, and thus other macronutrients along with it. Okay, but aside from that, let me tell you why dieting doesn’t have to suck. First, let me debunk several dieting myths that I know you’ve probably heard at some point:

  1. You gotta severely cut carbs to really lose weight. This is total garbage. I’ve tried both dieting while cutting carbs AND dieting while eating plenty of carbs in a healthy ratio… and both methods work the same, as long as you stay under your caloric budget. In fact, I usually get about 40~50% of my daily calories from carbs (for me, that’s 250~300+ grams/day at current caloric levels), so I stay energetic for my workouts, AND I feel less hungry because I’m not depriving myself of a key macronutrient that gives energy. The reason why a lot of people on Atkins and other carb-deprived diets often lose weight is because along with less carbs, they are eating less calories overall. Look, if a carb-deprived diet works for you to lose weight, AND you can continue this lifestyle with no sugar cravings or lack of energy, then by all means keep doing what works for you. It’s just that for most people, I find that it’s very difficult to cut out this critical macronutrient for the long-term while staying energetic during workouts or exercise.
  2. You have to eat 5~7 times per day to keep your metabolism going. This is not true. Again, it all comes down to how many calories you eat versus how many you consume. It does not matter if you do it in one sitting or seven… as long as you create a caloric deficit, you will lose weight. Now, having said this, there are a few caveats to this… first, if you are involved with weight training, then you need to make sure you get a regular flow of protein into your system, so eating just once a day is not ideal… this is because your body is constantly repairing muscle tissue, and it’s looking for protein to do so… if you starve yourself of protein for most of the day, your body will not have the proper building blocks for growth and can even break down what you have. Thus, if you’re working out a lot, it’s important that you eat at least several times per day to keep a continuous flow of protein coming into your body. As I will show you below, I love eating constantly throughout the day, because for me, this helps me eat less, stay full, and continuously provide protein and nutrients to my muscles. The second caveat is that pragmatically, eating a little less, but more often, tends to keep most people more satiated and thus eat less calories. If this is the case with you (as it is for me), then by all means, eat 5~7 times per day, albeit in smaller portions.
  3. Don’t eat after 6~7 pm, to prevent fat buildup. This is complete and utter hogwash. You know, I stay up until 3~4 am almost every night, working on different projects, and I’m constantly snacking until I go to bed, and it hasn’t impeded my weight loss one bit because I’m staying under my caloric limit for the day. As long as you stay under your caloric budget, it does not matter what time you consume your food. So go ahead and eat that Ham sandwich at 3 AM… I certainly do!

Now that I’ve debunked some prevalent myths, I want to lay a few ground rules to help with your diet. This is especially pertinent if you are on any kind of workout or exercise regimen:

  1. Rule #1: Eat anything you want throughout the day that keeps you full and satisfied… but obviously, stay under your caloric budget (in fact, I’m going to prove this point to you in the future, via an interesting experiment that I plan to run and post on this blog). Now, for long-term nutritional purposes, it’s also a good idea to have a pretty balanced ratio of food intake, though… what I like to do is to try and hit a 40:40:20 ratio in terms of protein to carbs to fats. It’s totally fine if you are off by a bit, though (e.g. 30:50:20, 35:40:25) – I’m usually a bit high on the carbs, as I enjoy eating carbs and they give me plenty of energy for my daily activities.
  2. Rule #2Take a good multi-vitamin (almost any type of multi-vitamin will suffice) and preferably Omega-3 fish oil, and drink lots of water. This is for your overall health and to promote fat-loss (yes, fish oil for fat loss… go figure!). Especially if you are working out along with your diet, it’s very important to take at least a good multi-vitamin supplement. Try to drink at least .5~1 gallon of water per day (8 x 8 oz of water to 16 x 8 oz), as it is essentially to proper bodily functions, electrolytes, etc.
  3. Rule #3: Don’t try to lose too much weight at one time. Seriously. It’s much more sustainable and enjoyable if you take time to lose weight, as opposed to trying to go on a juice diet for 2 weeks to lose 20 pounds. If you’re pretty new to dieting, I would not recommend losing more than 1 pound each week (you do this by eating 500 less calories per day than you consume), unless you absolutely must lose weight in a short time to fit into a certain pair of pants for a near-term event or something like that (chances are, you will not be able to sustain the lower body weight if you lose too fast, and you may even slingshot back to a heavier weight after your diet is finished because you are so hungry and calorie-deprived). If you’ve dieted before, you can try to lose up to 2+ pounds per week, but it can get pretty challenging, especially if you are trying to lose quite a bit of weight while working out hard.
  4. Rule #4: If you are involved with resistance/weight training, you need to consume at least 1 gram of protein per pound of your body weight per day. For serious body builders, crossfit, power lifters, etc. I recommend getting 1.5 grams per pound of body weight. This ensures that you have the most important macronutrient for muscular growth in plentiful amounts. Now, since you have this “constraint” on your diet, you must do just a little bit of planning so that you can ensure that you stay within your caloric budget while getting plenty of protein, while eating the foods that you enjoy and keep you full. As such, this rule becomes a bit of a caveat to Rule #1, which is to eat whatever you want within your caloric budget. What I find helps in this situation is to use nutritional supplements. I use two supplements: one is a meal replacement protein drink (I use Myoplex Original from EAS, but it doesn’t matter at all what brand you use) that has both PROTEIN AND CARBS, and this should be taken within 30 minutes of completing your workout. By the way, the reason you also want carbs (not just protein) after a strenuous workout session is that you must replenish your depleted glycogen stores quickly because if your body cannot replenish this, it may break down muscle tissue to take what it needs. So prevent this from happening by eating a well-balanced meal replacement drink or taking a combination of a protein drink with 24 ounces of Gatorade or a piece of fruit, like a banana or apple. The second supplement I use is Whey protein. I like Whey protein because it provides nearly pure protein with little else (thus low calories)… as such, if I’m short on protein during the day or at night, I drink this to ensure I have ample protein, while adding only a little to my total calories. Also, I like to drink it before bed and first thing in the morning, to give my body plenty of protein to repair muscle tissue while I sleep. FYI, stay away from EAS Whey Protein here, as it tastes like crap and gives the lactose intolerant people like me diarrhea… instead, I like to drink Dymatize Whey Protein because it tastes delicious, just like chocolate milk (Chocolate Mint flavor)… yum…

So here’s a sample of what I eat on a daily basis… it changes day by day and week by week, but I continue to lose fat because I am carefully tracking my calories and staying under a specified limit. By the way, a great resource to find caloric information of different foods is found here: http://caloriecount.about.com/

Sample Day (eat 2,500 – 2,700 kcal):

  • Breakfast: Generally, I drink one serving of Whey Protein, as well as ½ cup of oatmeal (prior to cooking) w/ 1 teaspoon of brown sugar OR a jelly sandwich on 2 wheat bread slices.
  • Mid-morning snack: An energy bar (e.g. Cliff Bar, Granola Bar, Atkins Bar, etc.), an apple, or a serving of yogurt.
  • Lunch:
    • If I’m at home, I eat a plate of meat (6 oz cooked of lean steak, pork, fish, or chicken), 1/2~1 cup of brown rice, and a side of vegetables like salad, kimchee, homemade salsa, spinach, etc. I usually drink water at home (no soft drinks). Sometimes I’ll mix it up by cooking stir-fried veggies with 96% lean ground beef, then I put this over a bit of brown rice. It’s really delicious.
    • If I’m in the office, I usually eat a 6” chicken/roast beef sandwich (e.g. Subway, Toaster Oven, Quizno’s, Lee’s Sandwhich Shop) with no cheese or mayonnaise, but with almost everything else on it (I throw on tons of jalapenos, baby!). Then, I drink either water or a Coke Zero. I try not to waste calories on sugary drinks, like soft drinks, unless they have zero calories.
    • On the weekends, I’ll sometimes eat a big bowl of Pho (delicious Vietnamese rice noodles)… I just have to adjust my calories for the rest of the day a bit because Pho is pretty high in calories… but it tastes OH SO GOOD!~
  • Mid-afternoon snack: ¾ cup of 2% cottage cheese with a sliced apple or pear to make it taste much better; sometimes I’ll eat a yogurt or an energy bar instead.
  • Late-afternoon snack: a piece of fruit, like a banana, or a granola bar.
  • Dinner: I eat another plate of meat (6 oz cooked of lean steak, pork, fish, or chicken), 1/2~1 cup of brown rice, and a side of vegetables like salad, kimchee, homemade salsa, spinach, etc. Again, I mix this up… sometimes I eat home-made steak tacos on wheat tortillas with lots of veggies and salsa. The key is portion control (I stay at around 6 oz of meat, cooked).
  • Post-workout meal: High-protein meal replacement drink (Myoplex Original by EAS) with a banana or 12 ounces of Gatorade, immediately after my workout.
  • Late-night snack: Atkins meal bar, baked chips, granola bar, etc. I eat enough and keep the snacks spaced out to keep myself more full, while staying under my caloric limit. Also, if I’m really craving “bad” foods with high calories or lots of trans fats (e.g. cinnamon rolls with icing, cake, pastries, etc.), I will take a very small piece and just nibble. It helps me “enjoy” that food and eliminate the cravings, at least a little bit, while not putting all of the nasty crap into my system.

All of this comes out to about 2,300~2,600 calories per day, give or take. So I’m eating delicious foods while staying full and losing weight. What really helps is that I’m staying away from potentially super-high calorie foods like mega-sized burritos doused with guacamole & cheese, fried foods with tons of calories & trans/saturated fats, foods with lots of mayonnaise or melted cheese, or restaurants where you are just not sure exactly what ingredients they are using, etc… of course, it’s harder to stay under your caloric budget when you have to eat out a lot (e.g. working professionals), but as long as you use a little common sense (e.g. no mayonnaise or cheese, take it easy on the fatty or fried foods) and portion control, you can stay within your caloric budget. What I do is try and control my eating situation as much as possible – for example, I stick to foods where I know the caloric content (or check it out first online), bring some of my own food to the office, eat at restaurants where I know the menu, have extra meal bars ready to eat just in case, etc… and if I have to eat at a restaurant where I don’t know the menu or ingredients, like at a new Italian restaurant or something, I try to stick with foods that are more easily recognizable, like simple spaghetti with light meat sauce separately on the side, while staying away from the dishes with melted cheeses. If I’m at McDonald’s, I try to order the grilled chicken sandwich and stay away from the French fries or eat just a little bit.

Oh yeah, regarding social situations where you need to drink alcohol… listen, just budget it into your total calories, and you’ll be fine. This is one area that I have to be careful about, because I can seriously put the beers down, especially if they’re dark beers like Guinness, Young’s Oatmeal Stout, Newcastle Brown Ale, etc… but anyways, the worst part about alcoholic drinks are the empty calories they present (they contribute very little to nutrition while racking up the calories), as well as the fact that alcohol prevents protein synthesis and dehydrates you, which are both bad for people who are training… but again, lots of situations arise for me where I need to have drinks, so I just budget it into my daily caloric budget and plan my nutrition more strictly on the days that I know I’m going to be drinking. And of course, just limit the amount that you drink… for example, almost every week, I have a pint or two beers with my indoor soccer team after our game… but you know, I burn a ton of calories playing soccer, so I’m more lenient about my caloric consumption on those days (I’m more concerned about the impact of alcohol on my muscles, as I mentioned). Again, use good common sense (e.g. drink in moderation), and don’t be afraid to have a “cheat day” each week where you indulge in life’s pleasures a bit.

Following these rules while dieting have helped me shred down from ~190 pounds early this year(at ~17% or so body fat ) to almost 170 pounds right now (at ~5% body fat), while retaining most of my strength. I hope some of this information is helpful for your own diets. Good luck, and keep checking my posts, as I’ll follow up with a lot of posts regarding practical advice on dieting, exercising, and interesting fitness-related topics!