How To Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind

Getting enough calories in a plant-based diet.

The hardest part of a new diet is getting the right amount of calories to reach your goals. This is especially true when the diet switch is bigger, like moving to a vegan diet or even a more strict vegetarian one.

While yes, one of the major reasons for moving to a diet can be to lose weight, we still have to pay attention to how many calories we’re taking in, how many are being burned, where they’re coming from, and what nutrients we might be missing as we move towards our goal.

Based on my training and experience, there are a couple of issues with a major calorie deficit. Some manageable, some downright dangerous.

So I wanted to take some time this week to share what I know and what I have experienced myself after several weeks on a plant-based diet. Hence the catchy title!

What Happens When My Calorie Intake Is Too Low?

There are a number of reasons people tend to fall off the plant-based wagon and not get back on, but one of the most common might feel a little counter-intuitive.

They aren’t eating enough.

Hold up, Dave. What? Yeah. Fewer calories is great, but too few calories is a surefire way to abandon the idea of weight loss altogether.

I am not in the business of giving up, and if you’re reading this, my guess is you aren’t either. So let’s dig into some things that can happen when our “caloric deficit” is too great.

You Lose Out On Essential Nutrients And Amino Acids

Remember my previous post about getting enough protein? That can get pretty hard when you’re limiting total calories to an extreme.

Amino acids are—literally—one of the critical building blocks of a human body. They are the bricks we use to build hormones, neurons, neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, and a lot more.

It is an indirect and subtle effect of too few calories, but the issue compounds over time.

Your Craving For Sugar Goes Up

Satiety! The silver bullet. A lower caloric intake means an increased likelihood of wanting more to eat, particularly fast-acting or “empty” calories (e.g. sugar).

I am sure you’re thinking, “Well, DUH,” but you would be surprised at how many clients have been caught off guard by this. For whatever reason, this fact gets lost in the shuffle.

You Increase The Risk Of “Yo-Yo” Dieting

I probably don’t have to tell you this is not the most healthy option. Unfortunately, the standard American diet is largely built on filling you to the brim with highly processed food and a lot of sugar.

This causes your insulin levels to spike like an Olympic-level volleyball player.  Hence the “sugar crash” that tricks your body into thinking it is hungrier than it actually is.

You can guess what happens next.

We are taught—day in, day out—that more of something is always better. So if we want to lose more weight, we should be eating as few calories as possible.

Categorically untrue, at least in my experience.

How To Tell You’re Not Getting Enough Calories

You body’s got your back. Seriously. If it is not getting what it needs, it will tell you. When it comes to calories, there are a number of telltale signs.

In my experience, a lack of calories leads to headaches, mild confusion, even light-headedness. This is my body telling me to find more calories in my nutrition program. Let’s look a little deeper.

You’re Getting Hangry More Often

Turns out those Snickers commercials were right on the money.

See, your body is constantly working through its energy supply. The brain alone burns off about 20% of any available glucose-based energy!

So if you’re too short on calories, you can be sure your brain is going to find a way to “tell you”, and it often does that by being irritable.

All you need to remember is to follow this cue in a healthy way, and while that is easier in plant-based diets, you do still need to be mindful (vegetarian and vegan junk foods are definitely a thing).

You’ve Got Food On The Brain

I feel this one! If my overall level of calories is consistently too low, I will eventually find myself daydreaming about future meals more and more until it is all I can think about!

Your Energy Levels Have Plummeted

Losing weight is not something our body “prefers” to do. It’s engineered to adapt and survive, and that means there are tons of mechanisms hard-coded to help with that.

So if your calories have dropped too far, your body says, “Oh ok, there is not enough food around here. I’ll burn a little body fat and slow things down just in case.”

You’ll feel sluggish (often alongside being hangry). If your blood sugar is too low, you may also feel confused or light-headed.

Again, the solution is to replenish with calorie-dense foods that also prevent your insulin from spiking—because the spikes will ultimately make the feeling worse.

Plant Foods Need To Be Planned Foods

It is a pretty straightforward idea, right? Whatever you eat, you will benefit from having a meal plan. Plant-based eating is no exception, and in fact, benefits from a good plan even more.

Here are a couple things I have learned when it comes to planning (and optimizing) a plant-based diet.

Snacks!

One of the most well-rounded solutions to low calories in a plant-based diet is snacks. But in the pursuit of healthy eating, a lot of people will go for foods that are marketed as healthy, but are also lacking in certain essential nutrients.

For example, there are quite a few vegan desserts out there that have replaced healthy fats with starches, pectins, and other ingredients for texture. Several frozen fake meats also are pretty lacking in things like vitamin B12 and iron.

Your best bet is nuts, seeds, and (if necessary) keto-based snacks. These are good options to have on hand because they’ll give you the calories you need, keep you satisfied, and all without heavily affecting insulin levels.

Another helpful method of keeping calories up is to switch out a snack with a protein shake or smoothie. The protein will keep you satisfied even longer, and if you add fruit, bonus calories and vitamins!

Carbs Are Not Your Enemy

I like to think of carbohydrates as kind of exercise equipment. You can use them properly and benefit…

Or not.

Carbs are a fast resource for the body. They are absorbed quickly, and they are necessary for overall health, so I am not as “against” them as the mainstream trends are.

Plus, in most plant-based diets, carbs are going to be pretty common. So you might as well plan around the healthiest carbs you can—while of course leaving room for the occasional batch of french fries!

For example, eat whole grains instead of refined grains. Brown rice is also a great option. Legumes will amp up your protein intake, which is obviously great for fueling your exercise routines.

The challenge is when eating nutrient-dense foods, we feel fuller faster (meaning the body signals time to cut off eating while not getting enough calories), carbs are a substrate that is a  fast resource for the body, via absorption and availability.

Calories Versus Calories Versus Calories

You have probably heard the old adage “a calorie is a calorie is a calorie”. This is a topic that still surprises me how controversial it is, so I wanted to mention it.

It is true that a calorie is the same wherever it comes from. But that is not because all foods are the same, it is because a calorie is a measurement.

Depending on where the calories are coming from, our body will use a percentage of those calories to metabolize or store what we eat. This has a few different names, but it is mostly known as the Thermic Effect of Food.

Protein typically has the highest thermic effect. It is about 4 calories per gram, but 20-30% of that is burned off as the body breaks it down into amino acids and stores it to use later. Only 5-10% of the same amount of carbohydrate is burned off.

All this being said, the Thermic Effect of Food does not have a huge impact on things; maybe 10% of a healthy diet’s calories are burned off this way. Still, it is a good thing to consider.

Final Thoughts

I started this plant-based journey to see how it would affect my energy levels, especially after intense exercise.

The nutrition program I’ve mapped out for myself has been working wonderfully so far, but it is just as important on a plant-based diet to make sure my calorie intake is high enough. Otherwise, I become one hangry Dave.

So take inventory this week. How many calories are you taking in, and where are they coming from? Because while counting calories is useful, it is not the whole story.

And as always, I am more than happy to answer any questions or set you up with a plan that will work for you!

Two Awesome Plant-Powered Meals

Did you think I was going to finish this post without leaving you a couple of fantastic meals to try?

These two recipes are heavy on the vegetables, calorie dense, and pack a powerful flavor punch.

First, lentil soup with butternut squash and kale. Whole plant foods, check. Loads of nutrients, check. 8 different vegetables, check. Plant-based protein, check. This was awesome.

Second, a roasted vegetable salad with curry. This is so easy to make, and you only need a single pan. The salad dressing has a great balance of brightness from the apple cider vinegar and sweetness from the honey. Be careful not to eat the whole thing at once!

Schedule a call with your coach today! Click here to apply for coaching and schedule a complimentary consultation.

Sticking To A Plant-Based Diet: Is It Sustainable?

Well, it’s been a whole month since my partner and I began our little plant-based journey. It’s given my energy levels a big boost, I have new meals to cook, and tons of new knowledge to chew on alongside the whole foods.

But…A couple weeks in, I was reminded of just how tough old habits are.

You know, I was wondering if I would be able to keep up with my plant-based nutrition plan, and when my more “traditional” eating habits would kick in! Here’s the story.

While attending a men’s group meeting, where we have each brought an item for the past two years, I instinctively made myself a plate of the entree without really considering what was prepared for me.  It was a pulled pork sandwich, and the fact that pork is a meat didn’t even register for me until I was finished! Whoops.

And like a lot of folks, my mind filled up with questions and doubts. Things like “Is eating plant-based really sustainable for you? Should you be stricter and start a vegan diet? Will you run out of new foods and get bored?”

I’m sure your mind has said similar things.

But! Instead of continuing down that road and kicking or shaming myself for falling off my plant-based wagon, I chose to see this as an opportunity. Slipping up gives me a chance to…

  • Forgive myself
  • Reaffirm my intentions behind switching to plant-based foods
  • Reboot my mindful eating practice
  • Re-evaluate what parts of plant-based eating were working for me
  • Dig into why we slip up diet-wise in the first place

Do I think a plant-based diet is sustainable long term? Yes. Do the results speak for themselves? So far, yes!

But we need to give ourselves a solid platform for success. So I have made this post into a deep dive on how to make plant-based eating something you can stick to more easily.

In case you too find yourself downing a pulled pork sandwich all of the sudden!

8 Reasons We Slip Up, And How to Work With Them

In order to make a diet stick, it is best to start looking at some of the reasons it doesn’t. These come from all over. Perfectionism, cultural expectations, lack of planning, and more can impact your eating in ways that snowball over time.

Below I have listed 8 major things to understand about making a plant-based diet sustainable in the long term. You will also find some helpful tips and tricks to help!

#1: Habits take time

It has been shown by numerous studies that a new habit needs at least 3 weeks to become “sticky”. It takes a bit longer for that habit to become a fundamental part of your day.

There’s a trick known as the 21/90 rule: take 21 days to make something a habit, and then take another 90 days to make it a permanent lifestyle change.

Breaking habits can unsurprisingly take a longer time, particularly if it is a habit connected to your identity. Some studies show it can take up to 254 days to fully break a habit. Nearly an entire year!

So if you are early in the plant-based diet adventure and feel like it is impossible to keep up, make sure you are giving yourself the time you need to really develop that “stickiness”.

Good thing there are so many amazing plant-based recipes out there!

#2: The perfect is the enemy of the good

It’s an age-old proverb, but it is true. Being one thousand percent strict with a plant-based diet (or any new diet for that matter) will increase your likelihood of quitting before the diet becomes part of your lifestyle.

That might sound harsh, but based on the work I have done with clients, your chances of sticking to it go way up if you A) start slow, B) be a little flexible with your diet every now and again.

Every nutrition program will be hard to adhere to 100% of the time, so planning out breaks that are mindful and healthy for you to indulge once in a while is part of the process. 

For example, a couple weeks after my pulled pork sandwich incident, I was at a restaurant to watch an Avalanche playoff game. I found myself blindly ordering an appetizer without going through every ingredient. 

Fast forward a few minutes, and I was presented with Buffalo Chicken French Fry Nachos when I believed I was ordering solely french fries dressed up with buffalo sauce, blue cheese, and sinful goodness.

Nope, definitely chicken on there. Yes, fries technically are plants, but it was definitely not a plant-based meal! But, I had chosen that evening as a break from the healthy focus of my plan.

I ate what I wanted while putting the fried chicken off to the side, eating the fries, wing sauce, blue cheese, and enjoying every bite dipped in ranch dressing.

Which brings me to #3…

#3: Deliberately “Cheat”

If nothing seems to stick, and you find yourself daily wanting to give up, try this.

Take a single meal (or even a full day) to not just relax those diet restrictions, but eliminate them. Meat, dairy, whatever. Cook, eat, and enjoy!

For a plant-based diet this can vary widely. You could have one day a week or month for animal products, or simply indulge the way I did.

Because here’s the deal: a plant-based diet (or anything-based diet!) should not feel like punishment. What you to feel better should not make you feel worse.

So if you need to take a break, do it. 100% plant food 80% of the time can be a lot easier to adhere to! Just remember to do it mindfully and deliberately.

#5: Plan ahead

Planned food is fast food. Take some time in the week to research new recipes, and/or draw up meal plans. For times when you know are going to be extra busy in some way, substitute some of your favorite meals or eat simple recipes instead (stir fry is a great example).

This will help make a plant-based diet more sustainable by lowering the number of decisions your brain has to make. Decision fatigue is a real thing; our brains go for the simplest option possible when they’re exhausted.

Another way is to make plant-based snacks easily accessible for when hunger hits, like in your bag or car. Nuts, seeds, fresh fruit, fresh produce, for example. Think of these like your hidden “arsenal” of delicious plant-based alternatives to animal products or processed foods.

Keep in mind though, nuts and seeds tend to have lot of fat in them. Don’t go overboard!

(Pro tip: don’t just leave the fresh fruit in your car. Trust me on that one!)

#6: It’s in the culture

Many of our eating habits actually have a base in social convention, and that is perfectly normal. We grow up with our parents saying things like “eat what’s in front of you” or “clear your plate” or “it’s impolite to not finish your meal”. I am sure you have some pretty distinct stories to tell regarding your “eating history”.

This is 100% me. When it came to the pulled pork, the old habit of eating what was prepared for me out of politeness and social acceptance overcame my mindfulness of my new nutrition goals. 

Being mindful of the food you eat is important, but being mindful of your ultimate goal is critical. For me, plant-based eating is about feeling better and boosting energy levels.

The more clarity around that goal that I have, the easier it is for me stay aware. The easier it is to stay aware, the less likely I will eat something I’d prefer not to!

#7: Check your macros

I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. When starting a plant-based diet, it is common to run a little low on protein (unless you plan ahead).

Remember the essential amino acids from my last post? Our bodies know what they need, so we will start craving animal products more to get the amino acids we can’t make ourselves.

Protein cravings can also be mistaken for sugar cravings. This can also happen if we are not getting enough calories.

Often, we are also craving satiety, or to feel satisfied after a meal. Thankfully, there are solutions to satiety, like…

  • adding an extra scoop of protein powder to a smoothie
  • eating more high-protein vegetables (e.g. lentils, quinoa, chickpeas)
  • cooking meals focused on high-protein, plant-based foods like tempeh or tofu
  • eating whole plant foods (e.g. potatoes with the skin on)
  • adding more fat to recipes (e.g. a dash more olive or coconut oil)
  • having several meals throughout the day instead of the usual 3
  • introducing more slower-digesting veggies, like beans
  • switching out “white carbs” like rice or flour for whole grains
2 great recipes for satiety (vegan diet fans, take note!)

This week, I found a couple great, 100% plant-based meals to hit that satiety button. One is high in protein, both are delicious.

They are also some of the tastiest vegan options I have found so far! Plus: very simple, more so if you have an air fryer.

This crispy tofu recipe is a game-changer. Easy prep, 30 minutes from start to finish. Plant-based eating at its finest.

My partner and I also tried a potato wedges recipe from the same website. The parmesan and garlic powder combo was so satisfying, I might have to make some more after finishing this blog!

#8: It is ok. Really!

When I reframed my diet slip-up, the feelings of shame and guilt passed quickly. I still felt them of course, but I reminded myself that this is a journey.

I gave myself an opportunity to practice forgiveness and reset my intentions around being mindful of my choices.  I was able to reconnect with my purpose for starting to eat plant-based originally; to feel better and boost energy!

Health is obviously important, and self-forgiveness when you make mistakes is a big part of that, even just from a scientific percentage!

Final Thoughts

I let the cat out of the bag near the beginning. I still believe that a plant-based diet is sustainable. But I hope you enjoyed reading and learning more about plant-based eating. Trust me, there is more to come!

Honestly, the final word of the day is self-forgiveness. Like any habit we want to train ourselves into, a plant-based diet is only doing to be sustainable if we acknowledge the fact that mistakes happen, it’s ok, and we have all kinds of ways to move forward.

Healthy food is healthy food, right? You don’t have to let one slip-up cancel out weeks of effort. So stay mindful, take care of yourself, fry up some sweet potatoes, and keep moving forward!

And as always, I am more than happy to answer any questions you may have. Comment below with your questions and I’ll be sure to answer them quickly!

Can A Plant-based Athlete Get Enough Protein?

I bet you’ve noticed protein is a hot topic in the fitness and nutrition industry these days.

It seems like everything you see on the shelves these days says something like more grams of protein per serving than ___.

The benefits of higher protein intake are pretty established from a scientific perspective, and over the last decade, a lot of the old protein myths have been dispelled.

I’ll tell you right away, the most enduring misconception I encountered in my research was: you cannot get enough protein without eating meat.

With me switching to a plant-based diet—and therefore plant-based protein sources—this was of course an issue of concern. I am an active guy. I love being active. The idea that I’m not properly fueling my body is something to think about.

My research led me to conclude that it is just that: a misconception. But it is easy to just make the statement and leave it at that!

And since I value authenticity and the sharing of knowledge, I set out to understand protein a little better and answer questions like…

  • What would it take to get sufficient protein intake and nutrients to perform my best?
  • Can a plant-based diet (vegetarian diet specifically) provide complete proteins?
  • What protein supplements, if any, might be needed?
  • What is the overall risk of protein deficiency for someone both highly active and a plant-based eater?
  • Can you get too much protein?

And of course, I’ll be sharing my findings and experiences with you!

Protein: The Straight Deal

If we want to really answer the above questions, the first thing to cover is a short breakdown of what protein actually is and what it’s meant for.

Protein is an essential nutrient for the human body (and just about every other living thing). It’s one of the three “macronutrients”, alongside carbohydrates and fats.

And it is way more than something you eat just to build muscle mass. Protein is used to create and repair muscles, transport molecules, clot blood, build neurons and immune cells, enzymes, and much much more.

Proteins themselves are made up of small building blocks called amino acids. So think of it like highly, highly specialized Lego. The body breaks down any protein we ingest into these amino acids and then re-builds it into whatever is needed.

What Are Essential Amino Acids?

The argument that you need to eat meat in order to get enough protein is partially based on if you are getting enough of what are called essential amino acids.

To put it simply, you can divide amino acids into four different kinds…

  • Non-essential (amino acids our body can make by itself)
  • Conditional (our body can make them under special circumstances)
  • Essential (our body can’t make these, so they’re a big part of eating healthy)
  • Branch-Chain (basically essential amino acids that are more important)

Proteins that have all the essential amino acids are called “complete proteins”. Meat, eggs, and milk are all good examples of a complete protein; they’ve got all the essential and branch-chain amino acids.

Protein Intake: One Size Fits All?

It’s obvious that, for example, an Olympic powerlifter will have protein needs that would leave regular folks dizzy. But what do the rest of us—who don’t need to lift 800 pounds—require?

What I’ve found is that there isn’t a one size fits all solution to meeting protein needs. The main factors that influence protein absorption and consumption really depend on 3 things: your individual body, goals, and preferences. 

An athlete’s needs, your needs, and mine will uniquely affect how much protein our body breaks down into amino acids to repair muscles and recover from exercise. It is wiser to start with the base level requirements.

So let’s look at first the benefits of enough protein, follow that with the base-level requirements, then compare plant-based protein sources with animal sources of protein so we can see what getting enough might look like for you.

The Benefits of Enough Protein

Let’s be honest: you’re probably here because you are curious and want to see if the plant-based diet might work for you. Part of the success of plant-based meals is dependent on getting enough protein overall; if we solve for that, we’re golden, and here’s why.

Getting more protein can help with…

  • Muscle repair and recovery speed
  • Body composition (levels of fat vs muscle)
  • Appetite control (since protein increases satiety, you eat less)
  • Lowering blood pressure and cholesterol
  • A tougher immune system

Here’s the starting point for how much protein you need for either maintenance (keeping your body up and running), or looking to build some muscle.

  • Sedentary: You’ll need at least 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight
  • Athletes: 0.55 to 1 gram/pound will do for maintenance, but you’ll of course need more if you’re really pushing it.
  • Adults Over 65: Interestingly, there’s growing evidence that a higher intake is helpful; at least 0.55-0.91 grams/pound.
  • Adults Looking to Build Muscle: 0.75 grams of protein per pound. Minimum. Aim for something like 1.5 grams/pound.

These are starting points and of course, your needs will vary based on your unique situation. That being said, these baseline levels are well established.

So Am I Getting Enough?

One of the things many first-time plant-based dieters struggle with is getting enough protein. They’ve nailed down the varied diet, but the dependence on animal sources is a hard habit to break!

With protein playing such an important part in bodily function, not getting enough can cause a whole range of symptoms for plant-based eaters and meat-eaters alike, from healing slowly and slow workout recovery to irritability and a poor immune system.

And of course, a drop in muscle mass.

Sounds dire? It doesn’t have to.

If, like me, you’re on the plant-based journey and worried your protein intake is too low, there are a few solutions. The easiest is vegetarian or vegan protein powder.

These can be either single-source protein powder (like pea protein or brown rice) or multi-source (usually a mix of chia seeds, sprouted grains or beans, hemp seeds, and other complementary protein sources).

If you’re not on any particular diet or just want flexibility, whey protein powder is also an excellent bet. It is also a complete protein on its own.

Check Your Sources

I want to be clear though, protein powders are supplements. They’re engineered to fill in the gaps and help your body maximize the potential of your diet, plant-based or not. Someone living on nothing but whey? No whey.

The other solution is to find more plant-based protein. There are some great plant foods out there, such as…

  • Seitan
  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Edamame
  • Lentils
  • Spelt or Teff

These do double duty as vegan protein sources, so for those of you on vegan or strict vegetarian diets, enjoy!

Animal Protein Vs Plant Protein

Remember complete proteins? Plant sources of protein are less likely to be complete, and we need those essential amino acids, hence the argument that animal protein is “better”.

This is a frequent criticism of the vegan diet, vegetarian diet, and vegan foods in general.

But! All this really means is that in order to eat healthy, plant-based, and get all essential amino acids, you need a more varied diet using plant foods that complement each other. A classic (and delicious) example of this is mixing black beans with rice.

All this being said, unless your protein intake is extremely low, you’ve probably passed your baseline requirements, and as long as you’re higher than the minimum, incomplete proteins probably won’t be an issue.

Bioavailability

Another argument I have found to support the idea that animal protein is better than plant protein is founded on bioavailability—the % amount of a protein your body can break down into amino acids.

While it is true that the most bioavailable sources of protein are animal sources, there are a number of protein-rich foods that are entirely plant-based, like the ones listed above.

Keep in mind, you’ll likely need slightly more grams/pound than if you were taking in animal proteins.

The truth is, if your plant-based diet is well thought out, you’re probably getting more than enough protein to fuel recovery after a workout. However, if you’re looking to build more muscle or reap the benefits I listed above, you’ll obviously need more protein, so include a higher level of complementary plant-based proteins in general.

Tolerance

As I crawl the internet, I see a lot of blogs kind of gloss over the importance of your body’s tolerance to certain proteins. It’s great that vegetarian protein powders exist, but what if you’re allergic to one of the ingredients?

For example, I have a number of friends who simply can’t do whey protein due to stomach issues, but plant proteins are just fine.

Pay close attention to nutrition labels to make sure you’re not taking in something your body might, uh, “take issue” with. This is especially true for more processed plant foods.

And, pay especially close attention to the real protein content, aka “protein per serving”. If a scoop of delicious vegan protein powder is 30 grams, but there are only 13 grams per scoop, try and confirm that the rest of the scoop is other nutrients and not just filler, sweeteners, and other stuff you might not need.

Other Common Misunderstandings

Like I said, there are a number of myths about protein, and they come from all sides. Most of these are based on nothing more than old science, but let’s cover some quickly.

Misunderstanding #1: Protein gives you energy throughout the day.

Like a lot of things, this only sort of true. The body prioritizes the other macronutrients, only burning proteins (in noticeable amounts) for energy when things are really dire or there is an underlying disease or genetic issue.

While eating plant-based for the past two weeks, I have had a boost in energy, but I can guarantee that is from the additional carbohydrates and healthy fats.

Misunderstanding #2: You need to eat complementary plant proteins at the same time.

As long as they’re eaten within 24-36 hours, it’s fine. If you have beans for lunch and rice for dinner, they’ll still fill in the gaps.

I don’t understand why you wouldn’t mix them for the same meal, because they’re delicious, but the fact remains.

Misunderstanding 3#: You Can Have Too Much Protein

This is a tricky one. Some studies have demonstrated that even having massive amounts of protein (we’re talking 4.4 grams/pound of body weight) didn’t have any negative effects, even after several months.

The only issue with this is that at that level, you’ll likely be taking in a lot of calories, which might make it difficult to lose weight.

Ultimately, unless you have an underlying kidney issue, there doesn’t seem to be any negative, lasting impact from excessive protein intake.

Week Two: The Biggest Lesson

After two weeks of adhering to a plant-based diet, you’d think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is how complex the plant-based eaters’ protein journey might be!

But honestly, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is this: Simply being mindful about what I am eating is most important.

Mindfulness applies to what I am eating, when I am eating (nutrient timing), and how I am cooking my meals.

Mindfulness helps ward off things like analysis paralysis and decision fatigue, two subtle but significant hurdles to healthy eating.

Analysis paralysis is when there’s too much data; you fall down the rabbit hole of research and are left unable to make a decision. Over time, this can lead to resignation or worse, backsliding, because your brain is looking for something “simpler”.

Decision fatigue is when your brain is exhausted from constantly having to choose. Over the course of a day, our brain tires out and looks for shortcuts in thinking. Again, it looks for something simpler.

So you don’t have to go 100% “clinical nutrition”, measuring nut butters with surgeon-like precision and counting chia seeds one by one! That will burn you out.

Nor should you quit thinking after the phrase “I will no longer eat meat”. You still need to make clear decisions on which plant foods you need to include, what amino acids you might be missing, how many grams of protein are you getting per day, et cetera.

So make your plan and stick to it, take your time, and maintain awareness. Also, don’t stress when you stumble. It happens!

And don’t forget: you can always email me with questions!

Making Mindful Eating Easier

I’ve been really enjoying the boost in energy thanks to a more balanced plant-based diet, and that is largely thanks to being mindful and planning out my food. It’s also been great to meet my protein needs in a way that’s tasty.

There are a lot of tools and options out there that can help keep your eating mindful or at least eliminate some of the decisions you need to make. Here are some that have been key for me…

  • An Air Fryer – It uses less oil, so I don’t have to worry so much about overdoing fat intake.
  • Recipe Books and Websites – The Internet is chock full of inspiring and creative recipes; few things are more motivating than straight-up deliciousness.
  • Healthy Cooking Oils – Avocado oil, coconut oil, and extra virgin olive oil are all great. Side note, you don’t need to worry a ton about saturated fat levels so long as your fat intake is balanced and comes from a healthy source.

What are some tools you’ve used? I’d love to hear from you!

Final Thoughts

So we’ve done a pretty deep dive into plant-based foods, amino acids, plant protein versus animal protein, how much protein should you be getting? And so on.

To sum everything up, mindfulness is important no matter your diet. But for those of us focusing solely on plant protein or avoiding animal products, we need to focus on getting varied sources (gotta catch all those amino acids!)

If you’re looking to build muscle, getting more protein is important, and doubly important if your intake is exclusively plant protein.

I’ve got to be honest, I am so grateful for the opportunity to write about this and share both my findings and experiences with you. That alone is a huge energy boost.

Before I finish this off, I want to share the incredible recipe I and my partner used to celebrate Mother’s Day: TACOS. It’s another great find from SkinnyTaste.com.

The spices are great, and sauteeing them with the beans and the onions fills your home with the best aroma.

Except for the cheese, this recipe is 100% plant-based food. Protein content is solid thanks to the beans, and the fats from the avocado are healthy and satisfying.

As always, thank you for reading. I hope you’re enjoying what I’m putting out there. If you’ve got comments or questions or want a deeper dive, don’t hesitate to let me know.

On to week 3 and if you’d like to learn more about my switch to plant based nutrition, click here to receive weekly emails with recipes and tips to boost energy and reach your goals!

5 Types of Plant Based Diets

Have you always believed that you had to constantly be eating meat to get enough protein?  Yep, me too. 

It has been a long-held belief in both the fitness and nutrition industry that an athlete must rely on animal foods to get enough protein in their diet to recover, rebuild, and refuel muscles after a workout. Makes sense.

But is it actually true?

If you saw my email last week, you know that my partner and I were watching Game Changers, a documentary about plant-based nutrition for athletes and non-athletes alike. 

The message resonated with us so much that we both decided to dive all in to boost energy, perform our best, and recover better from our workouts.

After all, the best way to see if something works for you is to just try it, right?

I’m dedicated to sharing my plant-based journey here, step by step. Along the way, I’ll provide as much info as I can; the science, potential health benefits, tips and tricks, and of course, whether or not it is actually working for me.

What’s A Plant-Based Diet Look Like?

The first week had me asking a lot of questions. Eating habits can be pretty tough to break, so I wanted to really understand what a plant-based diet would look like for me individually.

What are my options? Will I have more energy or less at the start? Should I cut out all refined sugar or just lower it? Are whole grains worth it?

Does bathing in coconut milk give me bonus points? (Ok, maybe not that last one.)

I sought out a lot of information, turning to my nutrition certification resources at Precision Nutrition, and consulted with other nutrition and fitness-focused colleagues. Here are the first two lessons I learned.

Lesson 1: You’ve Got A Lot Of Plant-Based Options

The first thing that stood out to me? There are many different definitions of a plant-based diet. It’s easy to think that a “plant-based” diet means absolutely no meat intake, but it’s not necessarily true! Plant-based just means mostly plants, not plants only.

Lesson 2: A Plant-Based Diet Is Not A Magic Bullet

I want to remind you of something important. All five of these plant-based diets can be a healthy diet. They can also be un-healthy. It all depends on…

  • How mindful you are of what you’re taking in.
  • The ratio of whole foods versus things like refined grains and processed foods.
  • Leveraging a healthy diet by living a healthy lifestyle.

Plant Foods = Healthy Foods?

Imagine a plant-based diet, but it’s only sweet potato, brown rice, and other starchy vegetables. Doesn’t seem like a great idea. A vegan diet that relies a little too much on french fries and does not get the exercise the body craves? Not ideal either.

Each plant-based diet above requires extra care if you want to make sure you’re getting the right levels of essential nutrients and cooking with healthy fats, for example.

With all of this in mind, here’s a basic look at five different plant-based diets and a quick look at some pros and cons. I’ve ordered them from most strict to least.

#1: Vegan

A vegan diet is obviously on the list; no animal products here! Strict vegan diets fall into the “plant-based” bucket because the “plantiness” of their diet is 100 percent.

Pros

Research shows that a strict vegan diet has some positive effects on blood sugar, kidney function, heart disease, and even arthritis. Plus, the high intake of plant foods bumps up nutrients like potassium, folate, and several vitamins.

And while it used to be that a vegan diet had barely any options, that’s changing! Plant-based milks, plant-based protein, nut-based cheeses, and more allow for a wider variety than ever. Just make sure to keep whole foods as your staple.

Cons

Without proper nutritional planning, vegan diets might not provide enough vitamin B12, EFAs (essential fatty acids like Omega-3), and other nutrients. If you go this route, again, focus on whole foods (and possibly supplementing with a good multivitamin).

#2 Vegetarian

Vegetarian diets eliminate meat and seafood, but they do sometimes consume animal products such as eggs, dairy, and honey. Though their food choices are less plant-focused than a vegan’s, they’re still plant-based eaters.

Pros

You get solid variety, which helps simplify your meal plans. You’ll also enjoy some of the health benefits a vegan diet might provide, since plant-based foods are still the majority source of nutrients (take that, cardiovascular disease!)

Cons

Thanks to the rise of plant proteins, plant-based recipes, and new ways of processing food, there’s a ton of heavily processed food that qualifies as vegetarian, but could actually carry the same health risks as animal-based foods. Take a cue from vegans, and aim for minimally processed plant foods; whole grains, whole foods, think “whole” as much as you can.

#3 Flexitarian

Also known as semi-vegetarians, or part-time vegetarians, this is a vegetarian diet that consumes meat and seafood occasionally (or just in small amounts). But because they eat more plants than meat, they still fall into the plant-based bucket.

Pros

Flexitarians get to balance the lowered risk of chronic diseases that vegetarians get with a wide culinary variety.

Cons

I don’t know about you, but for me, allowing too much variety in my diet sometimes creates pressure to make hasty decisions when I shop; analysis paralysis is a real thing.

You also may find yourself “falling off the wagon” slightly more often, which of course could minimize (or even cancel out) the many health benefits of a more strictly plant-based diet.

#4 Pescatarian

This is an easy one: A plant-based diet also rich in fish or seafood. Dairy and eggs are optional, and many pescatarians opt to keep them in for variety’s sake. The bulk of their diet, though, is still plant-based.

Pros

It’s been established that fish can be a significantly healthier alternative to red meat. Some studies also indicate that the gut microbiome—the beneficial bacteria that live in our gut—help ward off obesity when they digest polyunsaturated fatty acids; the kind you find mostly in fish!

Cons

The biggest con here is ethically sourcing your fish and seafood. If you watched Seaspiracy or read The Outlaw Ocean by Pulitzer prize winner Ian Urbina, you’ll know the health of our ocean ecosystems is reaching critical mass. There are also studies on the horizon detailing how microplastics in the ocean are affecting nutrient levels in fish.

#5 Mediterranean Diet

People who follow Mediterranean (or Paleo) diets might eat meat as often as every day. But they also tend to also eat a lot of whole plant foods. These are low-carb diets and focus on eliminating processed foods and refined sugar and replacing them with healthy fats.

As long as plants make up a significant portion of what they eat, we can consider them plant-based too.

Pros

It’s not just buckets of olive oil; this plant-based diet offers a ton of variety. I include Paleo because the macro ratios (percentages of fats, proteins, and carbs) are similar. By focusing more heavily on healthy fats, Mediterranean and Paleo diets can also help regulate hormone levels.

Also, strict Mediterranean diets are associated with a significantly lower risk of cognitive impairment with age.

Cons

Honestly, your mileage can vary. I’ve had clients try both Mediterranean and Paleo diets, and while they enjoyed the variety, the higher fat intake seemed to be hard on their digestive system.

In addition, many of the benefits of the Mediterranean diet are also tied to a Mediterranean lifestyle (aka walking in a hilly environment, getting a lot of sun, etc.) which may not be as easy to achieve where you live.

Link to more in-depth research here 

What I Chose

What I found that fits with my philosophy best is #2, a vegetarian diet. This means I intend to occasionally include eggs and cheese but stay away from red meat, poultry, and fish. 

Eggs have been a consistent item in my nutrition program because they are the most closely related protein to what the human body produces to repair muscles after a hard workout.

Bonus, the choline found in egg yolks is a building block of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter essential for memory.

And cheese? Don’t get me started.

Next Steps

So I did the research, I chose the plant-based diet to try, I have a wonderful partner to help hold me accountable on the journey. All that is left is to get cooking and see how I feel!

And after a week of exploring the culinary side of a vegetarian diet, I learned a few more lessons.

Lesson 3: Plant-Based Diets Don’t Have To Be Bland!

I’ll admit that when I started this adventure, my (and my partner’s) mental image of a plant-based diet was pretty bland.

Sure, I had my nutrition training to help us understand all the health benefits, but when it came time to actually cook, we had never fully explored my options.

Our plan was to begin by choosing plant-based or vegetarian recipes the next time we cooked together, which is usually Thursday and Saturdays each week.  On Thursday, it is my night to select the recipe, shop for the ingredients, and set us up for success. 

Rice Noodles with Tofu and Veggies

Dinner #1

So for this first week, I chose a SOBA NOODLE VEGGIE STIR FRY dish from skinnytaste.com.  Here is the link to try it yourself!

Along the way, we made some adjustments to the cooking recipe to make it fit our preferences better.  We chose to swap out the soba noodles for rice noodles and add in tofu for extra protein.

It turned out great!  The egg and the nut butter (yes, you read that right) give it richness, and the sriracha gives it kick. So satisfying.

Here’s a pic of the result of our efforts!

The only drawback to the recipe is how long the prep time was. The rice noodles needed to rest in cold water, which added another 30 minutes to our prep time. Nevertheless, it was not a difficult recipe.

I thought at first the dish wouldn’t make enough food to be filling, but the fiber in the vegetables filled us up quickly. The original recipe has 18.5 grams of protein per serving, but the extra tofu bumped that up, making for a dish that was satisfying as it was tasty—and nourishing for the body.

We had plenty for leftovers which you can see portioned out below for easy grab-n-go lunches!

Mixed Greens Salad with Baked Tofu Chili and Gluten Free Cornbread

Dinner #2

Later on in the first week, my partner chose “The Best Vegan Chili Ever”, a recipe from It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken. And, with gluten-free cornbread to compliment the dish!  We both agreed that this was one of our favorite dishes we’ve had together; vegetarian, vegan, or not!

Again, time was the only real drawback.  The tofu takes 45 minutes to cook, and the chili itself once brought to a boil was another hour simmering on the stove! 

That being said, the effort was totally worth the wait, as we both loved the chili with cornbread. Honestly, with all the other great flavors dancing in this chili, it’s impossible to tell the difference between baked tofu and ground chicken.

Here is the recipe with images below of how it turned out!

Plant-Based Eating: How Do I Feel?

It is all well and good to write about science, recipes, plant-based meals, and how amazing baked tofu is. But we still have not covered the final piece of the puzzle: How have I been feeling?

I Feel Great

With 100% adherence to a new plant-based, vegetarian diet, I genuinely feel a lot of energy while performing my best. There doesn’t seem to be as much of a slump in the mid-afternoon.

This first week, I powered through two intense jiu-jitsu classes.  Near the end of the second class, our coaches opened up the mats to students who wished to spar more.  I powered through 3 more 5-7 minute rounds with teammates with energy to spare!  

I’m going to be 100% honest: I wasn’t expecting to have the energy to do that!

Final Thoughts On Week One

Overall, my first week of eating plant-based was a wonderful experience, with the boost in energy I was looking for while filling in the gaps in my previous nutrition program with fiber, nutrient-dense carbohydrates to fuel performance, and recover from workouts better than ever.

I’ve also discovered it’s a diet rich in variety and flavor, even if things take a little longer to cook.

Healthy habits can be hard to maintain though, so I am looking forward to seeing what challenges, questions, and successes the next week brings.

And as always, if you’re looking for support in your own journey toward a plant-based diet, sign up for free emails below. I’ll be happy to share what I find with you!

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Will a Plant Based Diet work for an Athlete?

I’ve been an athlete all my life; from baseball as a youngster, to track and cross country in high school, weight lifting through college, and eventually falling in love with Jiu-Jitsu. The one thing I have always struggled with was energy.

I never felt as if I had enough energy to accomplish all that I wish to be successful in my life. Sure, I had enough energy for a workout, or completing a project at work, or playing with my daughter. But all three in the same day?

I was not cut out to be pushed to my max effort every single day as a single father, working two jobs, and trying to stay in shape. I was dependent on caffeine, supplements, and having a “balanced” diet to look and feel my best while grinding through my busy work weeks.

In early 2021, my partner and I were watching the Game Changer documentary on Netflix. I could completely relate to the narrator, pro MMA fighter, James Wilks, because I have also suffered from many injuries over the years and have always felt like it was a long road back to recovery.

Halfway through the show, my partner turns to me and asks if I’d like to try a plant based diet. Up until watching that documentary, I was convinced that I needed to have chicken, eggs, fish, and other proteins in my diet to refuel, recover, and rebuild muscles as an athlete. Wilks had given me a new perspective and I accepted the challenge from my partner to change our lifestyle.

We were already health conscious when cooking together two nights per week by mostly searching healthy recipes online. Yet, I was still overly sluggish in the energy department and relying on caffeine and sheer willpower to make it through busy work days and try to have enough energy to spend quality time with family and friends.

I felt as if I needed a change for my business to evolve and for my own personal benefit.

Some changes I’ve already made that have made a huge difference are…

  1. Considering meat a treat! Decreasing the number of times I eat red meat over the past two years has improved my digestion, mood, and energy!
  2. Switching from dairy to a plant based alternative! When I switched to oat or almond milk products, I noticed an immediate improvement in digestion and body composition!
  3. Adding in colorful vegetables! Thinking of variety as the spice in life, I found that adding in red, green, yellow, purple, and gold veggies kept my meals interesting and flavorful!

Starting in April 2021, I commit to documenting my own transition from a meat based diet to an entirely plant based diet. It won’t be easy and if you’d like to join me and follow along on my journey with me, sign up for updates absolutely free below!

I’ll share my recipes, progress pictures, and my discoveries along the way. If you’re looking for support in your own journey toward a plant based diet, reply back to any of the emails you receive and I’ll be happy to share what I find with you!

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What is the 21 Day Challenge!

First off, we need to know what your goals are before we can start any program to make sure it’s the right fit for you!

What are your top three goals you would like to achieve in the next three week? Is it to lose body fat, build lean muscle, tone up, or boost energy and confidence?

Many of our clients feel as if all of the above are at the top of their list. The good news is that when you build lean muscle, you burn more body fat AND you boost energy naturally while feeling confident in your accomplishments and results.

It’s a win/win right?!

Second, we need to understand why workout programs in the past haven’t worked for you. What are the reasons that you didn’t see results from past programs?

Is it because they were lacking accountability, ways to motivate you, and keep you consistent?

We’ve been there too. Trust me when I say that no one WANTS to workout! But we do want the results and benefits, right?

So how do you get results without having to go to the gym five or six days a week around your busy schedule, your family, friends, and other priorities?

During the 21-Day Challenge that begins next week, you will see how in just 30 to 45 minutes, four times per week, will get you to see a major change in your body, energy, and confidence!

Are you all in?

Not yet? What’s holding you back?

Is it because we don’t know each other? That’s one of the reasons busy people like you talk themselves out of making a commitment. I totally get it. You don’t know me from the other hundreds of skilled trainers in Denver doing remote, online, and in-home coaching right now.

What you can do is conduct time consuming research that may take you a couple days or even a week. Or… you can take a look at some of the transformations we have been a part of while working with clients over the past ten years. They all saw results fast!

DianeWe love Diane’s story because when she reached out for help, she was already consistently going to the gym on her own. That wasn’t the challenge for her. What she felt she needed was a weight training program that was safe and effective that could be done in under an hour.Between juggling her nursing job at night and creating a life she knew she wanted, Diane’s cortisol levels were keeping her stuck at a plateau. And when she began a new program with us, she jump started her transformation and these results came in just eight months of weight training and moderate cardiovascular exercise; all on her schedule! So proud of what Diane was able to do with determination, consistency, and a coachable attitude!

Diane’s transformation from remote coaching, training, and meal prep.

Alanna came to us before her wedding with a big goal of fitting into her dress! She far exceeding her goals of looking and feeling her best on her wedding day that her dress needed to be TAKEN IN by the seamstress! Way to go Alanna on all of your achievements while balancing out your hypoglycemia along the way with the help of your nutritionist!

Alanna’s transformation from online personal training and accountability.

Boyce was a lot like Diane! He wasn’t struggling to get to the gym consistently and yet, he wasn’t seeing his desired results! We gave him a workout program that was 100% remote AND a nutrition program that we knew would be the right fit for his weight loss goal! Not only did he shed over 20% body fat, he felt more energized and motivate to go after what he wanted! He completed a degree program with all that new energy and has a career that he loves working in Boulder, Co!

Boyce’s transformation from nutrition coaching and meal prep.

Kyle‘s goal was to tryout for America Ninja Warrior and he did it! His main goal was to take all of the pressure off himself to research a quality workout program so he came to us. We created a hybrid program where he joined us for small group training once each week and did his homework at home in between! Here he is after the first ten days of his workout program!

Kyle’s transformation from remote coaching, nutrition, and accountability.

Still not convinced? I completely understand because many of our members thought the same thing about the Challenge before they started. They thought, “Does this program actually work?”

The answer is a resounding YES! Through daily interaction with you coach for accountability, personalized workout programs you can do right at home with little to no equipment, AND a fun nutrition program with recipes you and your family will actually love!

Take a look at a few reviews and testimonials we’ve gotten from actual clients over the years on Facebook and Google.

The last thing you’re thinking to convince yourself that you aren’t ready for a real transformation that will change your life is price.

What does the program cost?

The ANSWER to that question is up to you! Committing to making this change in your life will cost your old life.

This program will cost you your old life that you’re holding onto that keeps you safe and protected.

This program will cost you your old life that keeps you living unsatisfied, tired, and frustrated with not seeing changes.

This program will cost you the investment in yourself that will be necessary to bust through limiting beliefs like “I can’t” or “I’ll never” that you’ve been telling to yourself for years.

Is there a financial cost? Yes.

If this program were to cost $997, would it be worth the personal investment?! Our current clients would say yes because that’s what they paid.

If this program were to cost you the investment of $297, would it be worth it? Yes!

Because of the overwhelming interest in the program, we are able to seriously discount it by 66%! Never before have we included so much in a remote coaching program built specifically for busy adults that want to change their lives forever!

For just three weekly payments of $99, you will get everything listed below and more!

  • Daily group coaching to hold you accountable!
  • Workouts that can be done in under 45 minutes!
  • Recipes you and your family will love!
  • Meal prep tips to save you five to ten hours every week!
  • Healthy habits you can implement immediately to boost energy and decrease stress!

What does it take to sign up?

Just a quick consultation with your coach to make sure you’re the right fit for the program!

Sign up through this quick form now!

Red Rocks Workouts

I remember piling into my friend’s two door Ford Escort with three other cross country teammates and speeding off to a workout at Red Rocks Amphitheater.

That was my initiation to a long time Colorado tradition of running the stairs… over and over again. My quads and lungs would burn but I knew why I was there. To get stronger, faster, and to push myself beyond thresholds.

Years later, when I began my personal training career, I swore I would never go back. That is until I gathered up a group of members and clients who were sick of the same old dumbbell workout and who were looking for to put more fun into their routines.

One Saturday morning, I invited my three regular gym clients to meet me one on one for a new experience! And it was new to me as well. I got to coach my clients in a safe and effective workout at one of the most beautiful locations in Colorado.

This is Katie and I finishing that 9 am workout together. God knows why she’s smiling. It was brutal!

Throughout the next week, other clients and friends on Facebook were asking for the same kind of punishment! They wanted to sweat and enjoy the over 300 days of sunshine Denver gets each year.

And the workouts grew larger and more fun!

So we made it a tradition. And we’re brining it back!

So. If you’re looking to boost energy and confidence while decreasing your stress of the new year, join us for a leg burning, heart pounding, and cardio blasting workout led by qualified personal trainers right here in Denver, Co.

This Saturday at 9:30 am, we are hosting a group workout at Red Rocks while it’s supposed to be 50 degrees in Denver. Bring your layers, gloves, hats, water bottles, and friends to a fun group workout with Dave Glaser and the team at Fit Life Champions!

Here are all the details you need to know below.

How Fitness Became My Path to Personal Growth

I was recently interviewed by former client and marketing professional, Meghann Conter on how fitness and nutrtition started my personal growth journey. Take a moment to watch before reading the story behind my passion for fitness and nutrition for personal growth.

I grew up a lot like other kids in the 80s. Playing backyard football, baseball, and tag while it seemed like enjoying every moment was a full time job as a in our communities in Montana, Virginia, and Colorado.

I must have tried every sport growing up because it seemed like every season except winter was full of go, go, go from one field to another. I didn’t get involved in indoor sports like basketball or volleyball because I enjoyed playing outside so much as a child.

As it would turn out, I was a pretty decent baseball pitcher up until high school. While my teammates hit their growth spurts, I was left nursing my pride from not getting past baseball tryouts my freshman year. So I gravitated to track where not a single person was cut from the team and everyone got to participate in practice and team activities. That felt like a better environment for an undersized freshman that never seemed to fit in with any one crowd.

Track and Cross Country were my focus as I began to uncover performance anxiety and fear of not being good enough. At every starting line of every race, I felt the knot of insecurity in my gut as I was learning what limiting beliefs were for the first time.

Eventually, by the end of high school, I was excelling at Cross Country in spite of those fears and limiting beliefs. In the final meets of my senior year, I would place 9th in our league race, 16th in regionals, and 67th overall in the state 5A Championship race. And by the time track season rolled around in the spring of ’98, I was burnt out on competing and chose to work instead to save for college.

I turned in my uniform and hung up my spikes in front of the look of dismay from my coach. In actuality, I quit because I was afraid of not meeting my own expectations that year. I had been in communication with the head Cross Country coach from Western State College and he had asked me to get my mile time down to 4:40 and my two mile time down to 10:00.

I didn’t believe I could meet that expectation, so I quit. And used work as an excuse and a priority. I would use that excuse a thousand times over the next 20 years to confirm that belief I wasn’t good enough.

Over the next few years, I found myself struggling to find my groove at college, although I would stay pretty consistent with fitness. I added 45 pounds of overall mass my freshman year thanks to my “consume everything in sight” nutrition plan, which included beer. Way too much beer.

I ran with the party crowd and would transfer schools after my sophomore year to escape the influence a small town and my guy friends had over me. I was facing the darkest depression of my life from a combination of factors; drinking too often, feeling out of control, and ignoring proper nutrition.

After transferring schools, I felt more at home in Ft. Collins, CO at CSU because I had a non-drinker roommate, began attending church, and found the on campus recreation center, and I gravitated to the healing effects fitness had on me as I decreased my drinking and began cooking at home more often.

About a year later, I met my daughter’s mom at a restaurant that I worked at in town, began partying again, and stopped working out entirely to spend my days with her. I made some poor choices during this time; including a DUI and becoming pregnant with my girlfriend.

Once again, I was at a time in my life that the limiting beliefs were raging and I quit school to work full time in a restaurant and support my soon to be new adventure in life. I had limited activity at this time in my life because the depression and anxiety I felt heading into fatherhood weighed heavily on me. About the most I could commit to was joining a men’s roller hockey league one night a week.

My partner and I would soon move to Denver to live with family and I found full time work in the restaurant industry with my first management position. Along with the late nights at work, came free beer, and a sleep schedule that was not helping my parenting at all. And with my drinking came challenges in my marriage and an eventual divorce from my daughter’s mother.

Gratefully, I was getting back into the gym with the help from my employer committing to a group membership for the restaurant team. The challenge at that time was to make it a priority. As an adult with a lot of responsibility, I faced a new challenge in personal growth. How do I make the time for work, family, parenting, friends, and the gym?

All of which I loved. Something had to go to the bottom of the priority list at that time. I chose to change jobs at that time and it made a huge difference in my life.

I raced head first into the catering and convention services career as a Banquet Manager at the Brown Palace Hotel! I began making better income and the hours were an improvement so I was able to dedicate more time to my fitness goals; plus the 24 Hour Fitness I joined had a kid’s club.

I chased success in the years after my divorce and shift in career paths. I felt lost, alone, and without direction although the one constant in my life was my commitment to the gym. It was’t until the hotel and restaurant industry bottomed out in 2008 with the recession that I found my purpose in life.

My roommate at the time had a twin brother who was a strength coach at Penn State University and he wrote us a remote workout program that took our squat, bench, and strength to new heights. I felt a draw to the science behind fitness and figured that if I was just serving tables in a restaurant, I would go back to school to finish my degree.

I found a great program at Metropolitan State University and transferred credits to complete my Exercise Science and Adult fitness degree in about three years. All while juggling parenthood, a relationship, and my course load.

I made many strong friendships along the way to earning my degree and none was more important than the relationship I found with myself. I began to gain confidence by putting in the work to earn my degree as well as working full time, becoming debt free, and being a part of my daughter’s life.

The education at Metro State included a 405 mandatory internship which I chose to pursue at The University of Denver in their strength and conditioning department. I learned many valuable lessons observing and coaching with their athletes but none was more valuable than the impact Olympic lifting has on sports performance.

I became obsessed with the Power Clean exercise. The nuances and technical requirements to move big weight FAST had me captivated. This was the key piece of the puzzle I was looking for in my own fitness journey.

Take a look at this quick tutorial of the power clean from 2020.

Watch this instructional video from me on the power clean.

What exercises would benefit me most physically, mentally, and emotionally? I am drawn to intense choices, risks, and activities. I attribute that to my Enneagram personality type, The Challenger, who seeks out all things intense. (More on this later).

Almost a year after graduating college, I was still working in a restaurant with late nights and feeling the exhaustion creeping in from the craziness that I experienced the last few years. It finally caught up with me while I was applying to strength coach positions to fulfill my purpose.

That was when my mom reached out to help her reach her fitness goals. She had already seen tremendous weight loss with a shift in nutrition and wanted to keep building lean muscle mass.

We began to meet weekly at a local gym to workout together and she paid me for my time. I saw my path and my future for the first time in becoming a self-employed personal trainer; the money was good and the work came naturally to me.

What I didn’t expect was to grow as much personally as I did professionally through starting up a fitness business. Honestly, in the beginning, I didn’t know at all what I was doing so I stuck to the basics. You know…

  1. Set up a business entity
  2. Set up a business account
  3. Seek out clients
  4. Manage my time and finances

What lay beneath those simple tasks was where the personal growth happened. Could I really build a sustainable personal training business?

Could I be though of as a leader and a good personal trainer that people would hire and pay hard earned money for?

I didn’t know the answers but it didn’t stop me from trying my hardest to figure it out along the way. Soon after, my mom and I got “busted” at the local gym and were asked to leave if I was coaching her.

So I took the leap and found a private training studio to rent space from. Instantly, my business changed. I felt the desire to create something bigger than myself. Something for others to experience personal growth through fitness like I had.

I put in a lot of hours in the beginning. Between the restaurant and the gym, I would sometimes have 20 hour long days with a nap and 4 coffees tucked in there. I loved the work and the challenge I was facing to build something from scratch.

I began to feel the exhaustion and the negative effects coffee was having on my adrenal glands. This was a major turning point for me to realize I couldn’t thrive on coffee, naps, and willpower forever. I started to clean up my nutrition choices by turning to meal prep to save time and money.

This was a game changer for me personally! I finally had a plan of action and the energy I needed to get through long, hard days spread thin between to jobs.

Things began to change for me at that time. I began to attract clients easily through social media and word of mouth. Although my physical and financial health were improving, my relationship was not. About six months into building my business, I went through a break up after three and a half years together.

I began to face some demons at that time and fitness was a powerfully positive force to help me get through the challenging times. I cut back on eating out, drinking, and skipping sleep and in exchange, I was able to make space for new hobbies, friends, and clients.

One of those hobbies became a passion: boxing. I absolutely loved the high intensity nature of the sport plus the mental side to effectively strike with power while maintaining a steady pace over the hour long classes. I found myself in the best shape of my life by making time for olympic lifting and boxing three times each per week. Here’s a picture from that time in my life at about 33 years old, 162#, and 8% body fat.

Could I keep this up forever? I soon found out that the answer was… NO.

I developed a herniated adductor muscle in my hip from the repetitive rotation in boxing and the stabilization necessary to accomplish power cleans. My body was asking me for rest so I finally listened.

Being humbled and told to slow down like this needed to happen quite a few times in my fitness journey. It was part of the process for me to learn my limits and just how far I could push my body before it began to break down.

That summer included rest and it also brought tremendous growth to my business! I eclipsed the $50k revenue mark after only 14 months in business and I felt like my professional path was laid out clearly before me. Beyond the professional development I experienced in the first year of my business, I also found my ego rise up a attempt to destroy what I had created through limiting beliefs, taking unnecessary risks, and a misunderstanding of the power behind the psychology of money.

Staying consistent with my exercise routine during this time was paramount to maintain happiness, decrease stress, and boost my confidence. I was facing hardships in a relationship and learning about my limiting beliefs for the first time in my life. It was a shock to the nervous system to try to balance it all out while running a business, parenting my daughter, and repairing the relationship with myself and others.

Summer of 2013

This feeling of balance was an illusion. What was I trying to control that was giving me an illusion of balance that was entirely beyond my control?

I’ve learned since that balance is just a clever word for control. Controlling any outcome is what I was clinging to the second and third year of my business.

I’ll never be able to control how long a client stays with me. I’ll never be able to control the economy which impacts my business, or rent prices skyrocketing in Denver, or even how long the gym I was renting space at would remain open.

About 3.5 years into my business, the gym moved locations on short notice. We were kept in the loop about how the current landlord wanted us out, or raise their rent, or how they delayed repairs. In the end, the gym owner found a space a few miles away and gave us 30 days notice to find new locations for our business. I could not control whether I received an invitation to move with their business or not; at that time, I did not feel welcome to move to the new location with the community.

The next few years were hugely impactful on my personal and professional growth. I chose to find my own studio space and my clients came with me; some stayed long term and others left when their packages were finished.

What I found within myself over the next 12 months I never knew I was capable of enduring. Business tanked and my personal viewpoint of my worth went with it. Fact is, I was burnt out and needed help because I was wearing too many hats in the business.

Head trainer, janitor, CFO, CTO, CEO, COO, etc. It was too much. I was humbled once again by another dimension of my fitness journey.

Thankfully, I was still working with some very passionate clients and I loved coaching them while building lifelong relationships with some of them. I am grateful for the consistency in fitness, nutrition, and progress in olympic lifting during that time that helped me regulate hormones like cortisol.

Demonstrating how our online programs work for remote clients.

I was trying to do too much and all of it fell on my shoulders. I was burning out and my body was reminding me to slow down, rest, and relax. I wouldn’t listen.

And my personal relationships suffered as a result. I began to connect the dots between my personal relationship challenges with my long term battle with mental health; specifically depression and anxiety.

Upon exploration, I found that depression and anxiety were the symptoms of many years of ignoring and suppressing emotions. What was lying beneath all that?

While sabotaging my business and personal relationships by pushing people who loved me away, I realized I needed to turn the mirror on myself and look inward. There is no amount of running, lifting, eating, and sports performance that will help you outrun your problems.

Especially if you are bottling them up inside you for so long.

That’s about the time that I found jiu-jitsu. I kept driving by a boxing gym that was within a mile of my studio. I reflected often on how good it felt to hit the mitts and heavy bag a few years before, so I walked in one day to try a free five class package.

The instructor was a former Mexican professional boxer with skill and speed with a flare of enthusiasm. I was hooked on the community there from the start.

After my five pack was up, I decided that jiu-jitsu would be my next adventure and looking back on it four years later, I am so grateful that I took the leap. I had watched my daughter train jiu-jitsu for two years and thought, “If she could do it, so can I.”

Through jiu-jitsu, I have met some of my best friends, found a community, and even teamed up with the owners of that school and operated my business out of their space for two years. Things were rolling there for a while.

I had left a bad relationship, recruited three trainers to work with me in my studio space, and had even grown my business while working with clients only about 20 hours per week.

The personal growth I found through jiu-jitsu was unlike anything I had experienced up until that point in my life. I felt as if my physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and financial health were coming together to lead me down my path to my true purpose.

To share the benefits of fitness and nutrition for mental health with as many people as I possibly could.

Let me come back to the Enneagram really quick. My Challenger personality type gave me a new lens at which to view my world and I really began to see myself for who I was as a man.

The Challenger, or type 8, is drawn to intensity in all endeavors. There is no half-assing anything so when it appears as if I go hard all the time in weightlifting, boxing, jiu-jitsu, relationships, and business… you’re absolutely right.

I go big or not at all! After four years of personal discovery and self-awareness through the Enneagram, I can confidently say that I am “Enthusiastic about challenging people.” What better profession is there than a strength coach, personal trainer, and business owner for a type 8?

As I mentioned before, I was facing challenges in my relationships, both personally and professionally. The Enneagram helped me see through the blind spots that had been plaguing me for years…

And that began the next level of personal growth for me and a turning point in my fitness journey. I really, truly began to look at myself in the mirror.

One relationship ended. And then another in the fall of 2017. I was near rock bottom and I was taking on too much responsibility.

I had three teammates at the studio and an intern yet I was still working too much; early mornings to later evenings and I had very little quality of life. I decided to take a break and schedule a two week vacation the final two weeks of the year.

The team with a few clients.

It was the best choice I could have made for myself to listen to my body and delegate some client session hours to trainers that believed in our mission. What happened on that vacation, I’ll never forget.

I had bought some Christmas gifts for the team, copies of Strength Finder and the assessment that went along with it. I also purchased a book for myself, The Millionaire Messenger by Brendon Burchard. While I struggled with the author’s voice and writing style, I took away one great message.

Your message has meaning.

That message told me that I could and would be able to share my powerful message with the world and be empowered because of it. Instead of carrying around the shame and embarrassment of childhood memories, I could share the rest of the story with others to inspire and educate.

So I wrote my book. Aspire Higher tells my story from the age of 17 to the time I was about to turn 38. This memoir-esque story shares how the benefits fitness, nutrition, and personal growth impacted my mental health. I completed about 90 pages during that two week vacation because of that one line from Burchard’s book.

Your Message has Meaning

I screamed through the remaining 160 pages over the next three months and it honestly became the therapeutic experience I was seeking the previous 20 years. I also found a tremendous counselor who listened to me share my thoughts over the course of the next 20 months; from about January ’18 until November ’19.

While processing my life’s experience through writing, journaling, counseling, and shadow work of the Enneagram, I stayed consistent with my jiu-jitsu practice, competing four times, lifting heavy weights, and building my business. All of which I attribute to helping me survive through the highs and lows of life.

I remained single during this time for a reason. My purpose was strong enough that I dove into serving others through fitness and nutrition and began to cultivate another idea to help so many others. I decided to take my break ups as a learning experience and begin a podcast to explore the depths of modern dating.

In June of 2018, the Believe Be Real Be Bold podcast was born to help busy adults navigate the modern dating world with a better consciousness by interviewing experts each week; dating coaches, authors, therapists, counselors, and matchmakers have joined me from across the world to make a great change in so many peoples’ lives.

Host of the Believe Be Real Be Bold Podcast

I feel that when we combine a holistic and mindful approach to personal growth through fitness, nutrition, and our relationships, we can improve our lives dramatically. And that of our family too.

When we heal generations worth of trauma, eliminate blockages from years of limiting beliefs, and share our story with others, we can and will make our experience on Earth worthwhile. Leaving behind a legacy that will greatly improve generations to come.

Hopefully you have a deeper understanding of how much of a role fitness and nutrition can play in your life when you stay consistent with your goals and purpose in life.

Brave. Strong. Fit for life. Is our slogan and if we were to leave anything out of our story when building relationships with our members, we would be doing them a great disservice by becoming robots engaging our clients through technology and screens.

I can’t say, at this time, everything is rolling along smoothly. I sit here, sheltering in place during a global pandemic, hanging on by a mere thread of hope that life will improve for us all. I have considered this one of the largest mental health crisis in our human history and I feel as if I am not alone in that opinion.

One of the first choices I made when told to stay home, shelter in place, and flatten the curve was to join a virtual men’s group. My men’s group leader serves a role in my life as well that is indescribable the impact he has had on my personal growth in just nine short months.

Additional choices I made to stave off the hardships our mental health crisis has given us was to continue to train with body weight workouts at home, kettlebells for overloading my system, and jiu-jitsu with my roommate and partner. I realized early on that nutrition would play a huge role in my stability while isolated but I acknowledge that giving myself grace at this time would better serve my long term holistic health.

Training at home with Sam McGraw

So I order in dinner twice a week, eliminate alcohol from my lifestyle, and choose a new recipe about once a week to further my passion for meal prep and thriving with healthy choices in the kitchen.

Are you looking for additional support right now to reach your goals quickly and safely? Set up a free consultation with me now to hear about the new programs from Fit Life for 2021.

Just find a time on my calendar below to speak with me personally on the phone.

5 Fun Facts about Fitness

If you’ve been staying off social media recently (it’s always good to take a break and reset, am I right?) you may have missed these five fun facts about fitness!  

We’ve been mindful about teaching healthy habits in our community and encouraging our members to set boundaries around their screen time, especially with all the extra time at home.  

Did you know there is such a thing as residual attention?

According to Cal Newport, who wrote Digital Minimalism, it’s the energy your mind devotes to social media, the tv, and distractions that lasts long after you set your phone down or walk away from the news to return to your task.  My mind was blown when I learned about that the other day as well as these five fun facts about fitness we looked into this month while!

  1. Exercise is one of the best relievers of stress, anxiety and depression, because it releases endorphins and gives your mind something else to focus on.  This backs up the point about residual attention we made earlier.  When you need a break from your task at hand because you are stuck or overwhelmed, try 10 minutes of exercise instead!  
  2. The average person walks about 70,000 miles in their lifetime. That’s enough to circle the earth almost three times!  Do you have a Fitbit?  One of our members recently remarked that in the last couple months, she had walked the length of Italy!  A whole 730 plus miles!  Way to go Jen!
  3. If all the muscles in your body could pull in the same direction, you could lift 25 tons.  Of course, many of our muscles are meant for pulling and stabilizing the joints, so this is a fun fact that can hardly be applied to our every day lives.  But did you know that your pulling muscles (back) need to be trained twice as much as your pushing muscles (chest) to prevent imbalances and injuries?
  4. High intensity interval training (HIIT) is one of the most efficient ways to burn calories.  More bang for your buck right here!  In 30 minutes of HIIT, you can continue to burn calories for up to 48 hours after a good hard workout!
  5. Exercising boosts brain activity and helps build new brain cells.  Just one more reason to think about how much time we devote to screens that distract us and to find ways to replace those brain cells we just lost!

If you would like to hear more about the impact fitness has in our lives and learn how to lose 20 pounds by 2021!

Join me for a free fitness class where you can ask me anything about fitness, nutrition, and personal growth!

Just click here to save your seat for one of the live zoom classes I am hosting!

7 Healthy Habits that are Guaranteed to Improve Your Life

I’d like to introduce you to the seven best habits you can implement in your life today that will create major change! When you add in these simple habits into your life, you will be guaranteed to feel more energy and boost confidence immediately.

Our coaching philosophy was adopted to fit your top goals from Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit. Read on to help make a major life change today!

Healthy Habit #1

Make Time! 

Make time FOR YOURSELF, for meditation, for exercise, for meal prep, for work, for rest, etc.

Why is this habit important?
Making time for yourself is an essential habit because if not done, it’s easy to neglect! Work, family, kids, and life, in general, can get in the way of carving out those few precious moments that can make a big impact on your day.

How to implement this habit:
Start small… set aside just 5 minutes early in your day to accomplish something just for you. The earlier you complete this habit each day the more likely it is you won’t put it off!

Healthy Habit #2

Drink plenty of water

Why is this habit important?
I know, I know, this one you’ve heard before over and over. But it IS important in order to feel your best and reach your goals! When you are properly hydrated, you sleep better and reduce inflammation to help your body work optimally.

How to implement this habit:
To decide how much water you should be drinking each day, take your body weight, divide by 2= total ounces of water per day. Decide how many refills of your favorite water bottle it will take to drink that many ouncews and count of how many times each day you refill your water bottle and voila! An easy way to stick to your goal!

Healthy Habit #3

Eat Slowly:  

Why this habit is important 
It takes 20 minutes for the stomach to tell the brain that it is full, but if you eat your food too quickly, you can eat too much. By the time your stomach tells your brain it’s full, you’ve already eaten everything on your plate (and your kiddo’s plate too) and it’s too late!

How to implement today’s habit
Remember, eating is not a race, take your time and enjoy each bite for 15 “chews”.  Be present in the moment and really enjoy your meal and table conversation with friends and family!

Healthy Habit #4

 Get Plenty of Rest

Why is this habit important
The body’s recovery from the day’s activities happens while we sleep, the less sleep we get the less recovery to prepare us for tomorrow! Sleep is a crucial keystone habit for so many reasons, so make sure you’re getting plenty of it! You should be getting a minimum of 7 hours per night!

How to implement this habit
Some tips on getting enough sleep…set your alarm to wake up early to make time for your new lifestyle! If you sleep in, your body won’t be ready for bed at the appropriate time this evening. Getting plenty of exercise during your day will wear you out by bedtime as well.   And lastly, make sure you’re adding good healthy fats to your diet such as avocados or foods rich in Omega 3’s, such as grilled or baked salmon. Quality healthy fats help you sleep better!

Healthy Habit #5

Eat more veggies than fruit

Why is this habit important?
Vegetables provide longer lasting energy than fruit, plus they are power-packed full of nutrients to give you the most bang for your buck!

How to implement this habit:
Eat the rainbow! The more colors from a variety of veggies, the better nutrients we get in our diet! A good gauge for how much veggies you should eating… for every one piece of fruit, 3-5 veggies at every meal!

Healthy Habit #6

Choose goal appropriate exercises

Why this habit is important
Choosing goal appropriate exercises helps you arrive at your goals quickly and safely. For example, the exercises in this 7-day challenge, are picked specifically for you to get the most results in a short amount of time.

How to implement this habit:
We recommend finding a good resource to follow for motivation and who knows your niche inside and out!  Got questions about which exercises are best for you?

Healthy Habit #7

Plan meals ahead of time

Why this habit is important:
Planning your meals ahead of time will not only save you time and money but also help you get to your nutrition and health goals. If you have planned out (and hopefully prepped) your breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks it’s more likely that you will plan healthy options rather than reach for quick & convenient but often less healthy choices.

How to implement this habit:
Start by planning out your week: which meals will be at home, which will be at work, or out to eat.  If not at home, have a plan that covers what to eat when!  

Would you like to feel more energized and confident so that you can juggle all your responsibilities AND have time for home workouts that get results?

Apply for remote coaching with Dave Glaser, CSCS now by clicking here and receive a complimentary discovery call!