Friday, January 22, 2016

When am I using my abs?

A lot of times, we as a society are looking for the newest "Ab Blaster Workout!" More common now days is the word "Core", but these authors mean the same thing. Different article for a different day.

But I digress.

Often times, we are trying to get the best ab workout. Then when we don't see results, we are mystified! 

The truth is that through out history, abs showed up 
when people had to move and work for a good portion of the day. They didn't sit around doing crunches and planks. They worked, their life is what led to having a lean and fit look. As a result, the abdominals showed up.

So what "manual labor" type exercises would lead to having a lean body? Chopping wood, Shoveling dirt, lifting hay bales, carrying heavy stuff with one arm. And of course cow tipping.

Although it's tempting to try and focus on abdominals, we use them the most to stabilize during movement. Therefore, it is wise to do a wide range of exercises that involve all of our body parts and require stabilization, agreed?

So exercises where weight is overhead or while we are offloaded (holding weight in one hand) will greatly improve our core strength. See how we can somewhat replicate these movements? 
Think about a single arm dumbbell front squat. It kind of looks like the "farmer" above; off-set load, held high. This requires abdominal stabilization.

Exercises such as standing overhead press, farmers walks, lunges, front squats and dumbbell step ups will constantly challenge your core strength. So it is these exercises that your training should be based around.
Lastly, this work was what people did 6-days per week. The lesson learned from that is to be consistent. A little bit done every day is more effective than a lot done once or twice a week. If that is all you have time for, then by all means use it to train. But don't make your abdominals the focus of your training. Instead use training to perfect the basic movements used in life. If you do this, your abs will show up.

Additionally, by throwing in some periods of running, there is a very good chance you'll see your abs without ever doing a crunch!

In short, if we know how to use our abs, then they are almost always turned on when we are standing, walking, running or weight training. And by using your abdominals to stabilize during daily tasks in addition to your weight training, they will get stronger and bigger. And pending your eating habits, some abdominals should show up. But that's for another article!

If you're not sure how to implement these exercises into an effective and efficient training program, and look into our Program Design services. We'll do a movement evaluation, body composition (body fat %), nutrition evaluation and lastly strength testing. Based on this information, we put together a training program that fits your schedule, your needs and your wants. It's pretty impressive if I do say so!

Here's to a fit and healthy 2016!

Friday, October 23, 2015

How well do you know your "OWN"ers manual?

Whenever we purchase something that is a bit technical, it comes with an owner's manual. The manual helps us understand how the equipment works, how to maintain the equipment, what it can and can't be used for, some cautionary instructions, trouble shooting suggestions and a help line if a person were still struggling getting the item to operate how it should.

Things as simple as a toaster come with an owner's manual. Other electronic items also come with rather extensive owner's manual.

Despite most things coming with an instruction book/owner's manual, people rarely look at them until they have a problem. Some of the most basic, primitive tools require maintenance.

We as humans are exponentially more complicated than even a computer.

So wouldn't it be wise to have an owner's manual for ourselves?

The Precision Nutrition Lean Eating program, which will be starting in January, has clients create an owner's manual for their body. And honestly, it's a great idea. As the ancient Greeks said, "Know thyself."

What types of things would go in your own owner's manual?

From a nutrition perspective it would be things listed below:

  • What types of foods do you like/dislike?
  • What are your favorite veggies/meats/grains/meals?
  • How often should you eat to feel, think and move well all day?
  • How does your body respond to a low quality meal? 
  • What can you do to ensure you have quality food available for when you get hungry?
  • How are you when you get thirsty?
  • What are some "trigger" events that would lead to over eating?
From a physical perspective, questions below are good to ask yourself;
  • How often do I need to exercise to feel good? 
  • Do I do better with short workouts 5-6 times a week or 2-3 longer workouts over the week?
  • What activities do I enjoy? Which do I dislike?
  • Which activities look like exercise but feel like fun?
  • How often do I need to stretch?
  • Which stretching methods work best for my body?
And from a lifestyle perspective:
  • How much sleep do I need to not feel like junk in the morning?
  • Who are my best friends?
  • Are there any relationships that are hurtful or destructive?
  • Am I a good employee?
  • How is my faith/spiritual life?
  • How is my family life?
  • Do I take time for myself?
All of these questions (and these are just a few) will help us understand ourselves better and make ourselves healthier from a physical, mental, spiritual and emotional perspective.

We are complicated beings. Those who simply react to the situation in front of them will constantly be chasing their tails.

This happens a lot in physical therapy. Patients come in feeling a lot of pain. After 4-6 weeks, they feel better. They get discharged and go back to the living that injured them in the first place without continuing on with their maintenance exercises.

What happens?

We see them again in 3-4 months.

You don't have to write a novel, but at least know a few things about yourself. A few things about me that are in my owner's manual?
  • I have a chronically tight left hamstring. But when I deadlift on a regular basis, the pain goes away. When I stop, it returns within 2-3 weeks. Better keep deadlifting.
  • I am VERY unproductive without enough food in the morning. It sets the tone for my day. Better make sure I always bring eggs and oatmeal.
  • I like coffee. But more than 2 cups leaves me jittery and scattered.
  • I am easily distracted. I do best when I set a timer and work for that period of time and then take a short break.
  • I have sleep apnea. So when I don't get at least 6-hours of sleep with my CPAP unit, I feel tired and lethargic.
  • I enjoy ironing while listening to big band music and having a beer (summer) or coffee (winter). It's SUPER relaxing if you haven't tried it!
So try just jotting down a few things about yourself. It will help explain why some days are better than others. Recognize a pattern then add it to your manual!
Special thanks to Dr. Brad Davis for the inspiration for this newsletter! 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Which type of body fat are you trying to get rid of?

For many people, the notion that weight loss = calories in minus calories out is almost cemented in their mind. As long as we are in a calorie deficit, weight loss will ensue, correct?

On paper, in text books, in clinical trials, in fitness magazines and in the doctors office, it is portrayed as that simple.

I have a very interesting theory though that I will expand upon, and hopefully be published in a bigger publication.

I've been doing some research on this theory and so far, it seems to pan out pretty well.

Here's the gist of the article: There are two types of fat-loss patients:
  • There are those who simply over eat and make poor food choices
  • There are those who are stressed in multiple ways and as a result fail to lose abdominal fat.
How do we determine who is who?

Here is a list of characteristics I see in people from the two groups
Generalized adiposity - 
  1. Poor food quality and quantity selection when observing a food eating record
  2. Larger skin folds in multiple regions of the body
  3. Soft, squishy fat around multiple body regions
  4. Body fat fairly evenly distributed among the body regions and limbs
  5. No history of prolonged dieting
  6. Minimal physical activity
  7. Somewhat sedentary job
  8. No attention to hunger/fullness cues when eating
Centralized adiposity - 
  1. Very conscious of food choices and quality
  2. Lower skin fold measurements in arms, calves, chest and thighs, high skin fold in abdominal region, mid axillary and subscapular
  3. Unevenly distributed fat (primarily deposited in abdominal region)
  4. Hard abdominal fat (they look overweight, but the belly is as hard as a drum)
  5. History of repeated attempts at losing weight with some success
  6. High demand, high pressure career, often a business owner
  7. Poor recover (ie poor sleep, dependence on caffiene, chronically tired, calories too low, deficient in certain macronutrients, micronutrients)
Now hopefully you recognize some of the traits characterized here in these 2 categories. And hopefully you indirectly see solutions to these characteristics. 

The solution for the Generalized Adiposity group is fairly simple:
  • pay attention to hunger cues,
  • eat to 80% full
  • and focus on whole foods such as fruits/veggies, lean protein and root veggies for starches
Add in 2-3 hours of exercise a week and they can expect to lose weight fairly easily.

The solution for the Centralized Adiposity group is a bit more complex. Because their's is a problem of stress and managing that stress. This study and this study demonstrated that high levels of the stress hormone cortisol is related to increased abdominal fat storage.

A big hang up for most people in this boat is the fact that they (GASP!) need to eat more and exercise a little less (assuming they are exercising). Trying to wrap your mind around that paradigm shift is a pretty tough and many people struggle with it.

An article by nutrition coach Georgie Fear has an entire section of her website devoted to "reverse dieting." In it, she outlines the steps that are needed to restore a metabolism that has been devastated by stress from chronic dieting, over training, poor recovery and poor sleep habits.

What changes does the Centralized Adiposity (Stressed) client need?
  • Make sure you're not cutting calories too low
  • Sleep 7-9 hours per night
  • Exercise at a lower intensity for 3-4 hours/week
  • Focus on hunger/fullness rather than counting calories
  • Minimize stimulants such as caffeine and added sugar
  • Perform meditative exercises that focus on breathing patterns and removing mental clutter
So take a look at the two types of fat loss clients. If you know you're overweight, you're going to fall into one of these two categories. And knowing which category you are in can save you a lot of time, headaches and frustration by knowing what to expect.

I'd love to help you no matter which category you fall into. Because we can make changes that will lead to a healthier, happier life!

Email and let's get this ball rolling!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Why MEN get stuck in their fat loss...and how to fix it.

I need to talk to the men about something. Something that you're going to read and balk at. Something that might seempreposterous even.

And it has to do with your body weight, your body fat and more importantly your testosterone levels, which indirectly effects your body fat, your energy and your muscle mass. Here it is.

You probably aren't eating ENOUGH.

I share this with you because I fight the same battle, the same struggle, the same mental roadblocks.

Or at least I did.

A few years ago, I was of the eat a little less, exercise a little more mindset and thought that's what it would take to get down to the 10-11% body fat range. After doing some research and applying the G-Flux Theory to my workouts and nutrition, I found my way to 12% down from 18%!

You see, many men have taken the "eat like a bird" fat-loss approach. They make the move to lose weight and get their head around the idea that they'll have to make some eating changes.

However, they far too often drop food intake and calories to devastatingly low levels and they do it for months, sometimes years! And they don't lose any fat! They lose a few pounds but eventually their metabolism comes to a screeching halt!

Now if you're obese or over 20% body fat, the "eat less, exercise more" approach will probably work until you get down to that 20% level. But you know what it's doing to your metabolism?

Strangling it. 

Your metabolic engine goes from a roaring V-8 supercar to a moped in no-time flat.

As men, testosterone and growth hormone (GH) drives our metabolism. And those hormones need energy and yes, dietary FAT to build them. So when we go cutting our calories to low levels, we starve our metabolism.

Funny thing is, when we do this, we actually gain fat. So most of us will just try to train harder and eat less. And how effective do you think that is?

You might lose an extra few pounds. But I promise you it is NOT fat. It's most likely muscle or water. How can you tell? You'll feel weak, chronically fatigued and absolutely drained. You'll look soft, you'll be grumpy and you will not be very motivated to exercise.

This will turn into a never ending story as your body starts to break down, injuries show up and even 10-hours of sleep per night will not feel like enough.

So how do you prevent or even fix this?

The short version, train less, sleep well and start eating more veggies and protein with each meal. Most guys need between2500-3500 calories for maintenance. Do you know what most guys who are trying to lose weight are getting? Around 1500. That's less than an 8-year old child needs!

Yes, 3000 calories seems like a lot. But if you're stuck in that flabby but not fat stage, you need to eat a little more and ease up on the workouts to help stimulate your metabolism. Exercising more and eating less will only result in more frustration, more injuries and an even slower metabolism. It's just the way hormones work.

Now don't go jumping straight from your 1500 calorie a day diet to a 3000 calorie a day diet. Your body will still be in energy conservation mode and you'll just gain weight.

Instead there is a different route you need to take. Ease up on the exercise to 3 times a week of moderate intensity strength work, cut out the cardio and gradually increase your calories by about 250/day for 1 week. Then repeat for 3-4 weeks until you're up in the 2500-3000 calorie range.

 Much of this has to do with feel. Pay attention to your body. Are you always tired? Are your workouts going backwards? Are you feeling more energized? Are you progressing with both workout intensity and movement quality each workout? Counting calories is almost fruitless. Once you get below 20%, it's time to start really dialing things in. You can't just keep cutting calories. There are some other important details that I just don't have the space to elaborate on.

However, for an in-depth video course on what nutritional and exercise strategies men need, check out Precision Nutrition's 5-day Fat-Loss Course for Men! It's eye opening to say the least. And besides, whats the worst that could happen? You take 10-minutes a day for the next 5-days and learn a few new things?

If you're still not motivated, just ask yourself the QUESTION BELOW:

Check out Precision Nutrition for Men.You'll be glad you did. 

Let's say you are one of these guys that is stuck. What do you do? You need some help, someone to coach you through the process. Send me an email at aaron@pairmarotta.comand we'll get you from start to finish!

Have a great week!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The discomfort of being "hungry"

Many people want to lose weight. After all, the whether is warming up and summer will be here before you know it! (In fact I'm already working on my tan doing yard work on the weekends!) But when people want to lose weight they realize they'll have to make some eating habit changes. They'll have to eat a little less, maybe stop drinking so many calorie dense beverages or cut back on the nightly sweets.

But here is one thing most people don't quite get until they embark on the "cutting out" phase of their weight loss journey: hunger.

Hunger is something we never think about because in our society food is everywhere. So when even thethought of being hungry kicks in, we fix it. And fast. Usually we end up eating more than we need too. Using a scale of 1-10, if our hunger is a 2, we eat like it's an 8. This results in too many calories and weight starts to creep on. In fact, this is how many people accidentallyGAIN weight on a diet!!

Two Saturdays ago, our Precision Nutrition clients had our first meetup. These are clients who are enrolled in the Men's and Women's Lean Eating program, as well as clients who have purchased the Precision Nutrition System. One of the talking points we discussed was eating to 80% full. This transitioned into hunger cues and how to tell when we are full or still a little hungry.

Here's the thing about hunger: it's uncomfortable. It shouldn't hurt, but you should definitely be aware and think, "hey, I'm hungry". This is okay! What else would you expect your body to do/say when you're cutting back on how much energy it's getting. If your car had a brain and it started getting low on gas, it would tell you to quit pushing on the gas pedal so much, and start letting you know it's getting low on fuel.

Here's what happens when we get hungry: our body sends cues saying it's low on energy so feed it. When no food comes but the energy demand is still there, adrenaline kicks in and start to pull from fat stores for energy. So being hungry is a good thing for fat loss!

Starving? no! A little hunger? yes.

There are a few things to keep in mind. Don't think that if a little hunger is good, that a lot is better. The body has an optimal range it operates in. Drop out of that range and things go south in a hurry; concentration fades, you might get jittery, you get sleepy and you get irritable. And then nobody wants to be around you. When nobody wants to be around you, you get lonely. When you get lonely, you get desperate. Don't get desperate. On top of that, your metabolism significantly slows down thus defeating the purpose of why you originally started eating less.

Lastly, when you eat, don't just eat enough to take the edge off. Eat enough so that you're about 80% full. Will you ever get to exactly 80%? No. Sometimes you won't eat enough and you'll be hungry within a couple of hours. Other times you'll eat a little much and think, 'that's a little closer to 95-100%." But you know what the big picture thing is here? You were aware. You thought about the food you were eating and you were conscious of what your body was telling you. And that is the main goal!

So the take home? Focus on habits. If you're not consistent with habits, nothing will change. Need help changing your habits? Check out the Precision Nutrition System. I just ordered a copy for our office and will be creating a curriculum from the information in the binder. Want us to coach you through the PN system? Email me at and we'll get started ASAP! 

By the way, you might be wondering since our last email how my habit of eating more to gain weight is going? Well, I've been sticking to a 4-egg scramble in the morning with veggies and cheese as well as a post-workout peanut butter/banana/chocolate shake afterwards. I'm up to 206. And it's time to add a different habit! I think the eggs in the morning is pretty well solidified in my life now!

Have a great week!

When it feels like you can't do anything right...

It's common for people to get a bit stagnant when it comes to making changes to improve their body. It happens to everybody. Even me.

In fact, life has recently begun to overwhelm me. I'm struggling (read: failing to properly prepare) to eat enough calories to continue gaining muscle.

I've also began to slack on my multivitamin. It seems the only two habits i've still got going for me are my fruit/veggie intake (at least 1 serving per meal, 3 of each every day) and eating whole grains only.

But we have to look at the bright side, the positives. Focus on what you are doing right! Even if you've only done it once.

For example, let's look at when you go out to eat. Let's say you actually eat the veggies that come with your meal. Sure you had a basket of bread, dessert  and all of your mashed potatoes. If you ate your veggies, mark one in the win column!

Let's say you make a recipe from Gourmet Nutrition, perhaps it's the coconut cauliflower mash (which by the way is awesome!). You make it, you eat it. Guess what?  Victory! Give yourself a high five. The rest of the day could have been a nutritional disaster.But that one success is all you need for a kick start.

It's like golf. I'm not awful at golf. But pretty close. After shooting a 103, I would get home and the only thing i'm talking about is the sweet fairway iron shot that rolled within 4-ft of the pin on the 13th hole. Do I focus on the fact that I managed to lose 6 golf balls? Nope. Focus on what I did right on that shot and lets apply it next time I'm out on the course.

It's called "find the bright spots" and it's a component of success. Nobody likes to hear what they did wrong. Maybe eventually we can start to look at what went wrong, but 90% of the time.... 

Wait I just had a revelation: this is probably what my daughter needs from me - catch her doing things right, focus on what she can do instead of telling her what she shouldn't do...

Okay. Back to my thought. 90% of the time focusing on what went wrong is not very beneficial and when it comes to weight loss, it's quite discouraging.

When you're focused on losing weight, think about what you did right and then apply that same skill to another habit.

If my habit is to eat less, well how did I go about that? Did I use a smaller plate? Did I put less on my plate to start? Did I leave a little extra on the plate? Did I slow down my eating? However I did it, there was a reason I was successful. There was some action that I took to make it happen.

Now think about yourself, your habits. What did you do that helped you stick to that habit? Look. You can do this. You were made to be the person that is happy, healthy and full of life. Thinking about how much you do wrong is not the way to become that person.
Need help working on your eating habits? Check out the Precision Nutrition System. I just ordered a copy for our office and will be creating a curriculum from the information in the binder. Want us to coach you through the PN system? Email me at and we'll get started ASAP!

Oh, and the favor? I'm going to be doing more presentations and workshops this year. So I'd like to hear about your thoughts and opinions on nutrition, exercise and health. This is a short 10-question surveyand it would be a huge help to me if you could fill it out! Thank you in advance!

Have a great week!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Anticipate some struggle...

A wise man once said, anything worth having is worth fighting for. Or maybe that was Chuck Norris...

We fight for love, freedom, and independence. The same goes for your independence from your old self. You see we really have to know that if we are going to make a change, that at the end, when the change is complete you will not be the same person you were.

And for some people, that's kind of a scary thought. Changing the way you look, the way you feel, the way your friends see you, the way you look in a bathing suit. Imagine being 15-25 lbs slimmer. You look back at pictures from last summer and wonder who that person is.

Even a positive change can be a bit scary because it's just different. We get comfortable in our skin and we get comfortable with our habits. Remember that a big change can spook our emotional side. And if it is too spooky, that emotional side will stay right where it is. In addition to that, sometimes on our change journey we hit a rough patch that we struggle to get past.

Remember in the last email I said that we need to anticipate some struggle. By knowing when things are going to get tough, we can anticipate and plan appropriately.

So whether it is a new workout, a new dietary habit to begin or perhaps even the awkwardness of being the only one at dinner taking the "healthy" option at a table full of friends, knowing when the rough patch is coming helps us plan accordingly. And if we can plan accordingly, our chances of success climb dramatically!

How can you work to overcome some of these obstacles? Look for the bright spots. Often times with our friends, we like to commiserate about the struggles we have with our workouts, with our eating. We like to complain TOGETHER about how hard it is to eat more vegetables.

But looking at the failures only tells us about what doesn't work. Start looking at success stories - the bright spots - and take what works and apply it to your own situation!
  • Struggling to eat fruit or veggies with breakfast? Throw a small handful of raisins into your oatmeal.
  • Veggies for lunch? Have some carrots and hummus, or celery and hummus as a side.
  • Fruit for a snack? Chop an apple and toss it in with some plain yogurt, a pinch of cinnamon and some Splenda.
So think about where you want to go with your health and fitness. Look at what has typically been a huge obstacle for you. Begin to look for the bright spots and start to identify how YOU can implement bright spot strategies to overcome your struggles.

If you need help that's good! Get the herd working for you. What does that mean? Find out in next week's email!