Category Archives for "Mash Potatoes Nutrition"

Fuel – Nutrition and Your Questions Answered – The Barbell Life 344

Anyone who is serious about their fitness knows their nutrition has to be dialed in.

You can workout for hours every day with the perfect program, optimal technique, and the mindset of a champion – but you will be wasting your time if your nutrition is poor.

So today we get to several of your questions on nutrition – as well as some other questions about injuries, programming, and more.

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  • Gaining as an ectomorph
  • Olympic lifting for track and field
  • Learning how to write programs
  • Nutrition for busy people
  • Dealing with multiple back injuries
  • and more…

Nutrition for Power and High Intensity Athletes

It’s so easy to get information regarding the nutritional needs for endurance athletes. Nutritional advice for bodybuilders is literally everywhere you look online (although most of it is wrong). But what about power athletes? What about athletes who compete in high intensity sports? I am referring to the powerlifters, weightlifters, sprinters, throwers, and even to the football players. This article is for you.

I believe nutrition is a tool that could easily be used to maximize an athlete’s potential. I have so many athletes who tell me they want to medal in the Olympics, win world championships, and break world records. They tell me they will do whatever it takes. They tell me so much!

I always respond that the true champion will do what everyone else refuses to do. Everyone trains hard, so don’t tell me about your work ethic. You should love your sport, so training hard is easy. What about the mundane things like nutrition, sleep, and recovery? Don’t tell me you want to be a champion and then fail to keep a food journal. I am simply not going to believe you.

I have watched several athletes win national championships, make world teams, and have really amazing careers. However, I have never witnessed someone become incredible without becoming a master of the mundane. Tommy Bohanon spent seven years in the NFL, and I can promise you he did the mundane things and a lot more. Greg Olsen is one of the greatest tight ends in NFL history. Coach Joe Kenn told me that Olsen takes personal responsibility for every area of his health and wellness.

I think I have made my point. This isn’t an article to make you feel bad, but I wanted to set the record straight. Now let’s look at the different components of nutrition, and hopefully give you some insight on making nutrition decisions for yourself or your athletes.


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Understanding Energy Systems

The two main systems involved with power sports and high intensity sport athletes are the creatine phosphate system (PCr) and the Glycolytic System. Both are, of course, anaerobic (meaning they don’t rely on oxygen). But that doesn’t necessarily mean the aerobic system is useless. The aerobic system, like the glycolytic system, uses oxidative phosphorylation to breakdown carbohydrates, fats, and even protein into Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) with the help of oxygen. All three systems have the job of creating ATP (aka energy), and the way we fuel our bodies is directly related to how efficient those systems work.

The PCr system is the one of importance for short duration single efforts like in the sports of weightlifting, powerlifting, throwing, and even short sprints. PCr is stored in the muscles and consists of a creatine molecule combined with one phosphagen molecule. The PCr provides the fuel for the first 10-ish seconds of a high intensity event. The means that PCr donates the phosphagen molecule to ADP to form ATP and continued energy.

(If you guys want me to explain these energy systems in detail and in a way that you understand, let us know at I will get right on it.)

The glycolytic system kicks in after the PCr stores are burned up. This system is fueled by the glycogen stores in the muscles. Glycogen is what carbohydrates (CHO) are stored as in the muscles and liver. CHO are stored as glucose in the blood, which transports the glucose to the cells throughout the body including the brain. The brain’s sole source of energy is also glycogen.

I won’t go into detail in this article on the aerobic system – but I can say that in regards to recovery, it’s a good idea to do a little low intensity aerobic work. The increased capillary network aids with recovery and ridding the muscles of waste. FYI, more recovery equals a greater capacity to train. In a sport where the highest volume wins, that’s a big advantage. Obviously people have won world championships without aerobic work, but that doesn’t mean it’s useless. Sometimes it’s the guy or gal who does every single thing right who ends up on top. You simply have to ask yourself if you’re willing to do those little things.

Nutrient Balance

Now that we have the different energy sources cleared up, let’s take a look at the macronutrients and micronutrients suggested for powerful athletes.

For carbohydrates, 5 to 7 grams per kilogram of bodyweight per day is the recommendation. There are no concrete studies that would support going above this amount for power and/or high intensity training. Glycogen is important, so I wouldn’t go below this amount. However, with eating between 5 to 7 grams/kg/day, you will have plenty of glycogen storage in the muscles to produce ATP for movement and plenty in the brain and the PNS to keep the neurological system performing.

For weightlifters, powerlifters and throwers who are involved in sports where the duration is just a few seconds or less, the recommendation is to stay closer to the 5g/kg mark. If you are a sprinter entered in events greater than 10 seconds or practice with repeated bouts and longer distances, the recommendation is to stay closer to the 7g/kg amount. If you are competing and/or have multiple bouts of practice or events, some studies would suggest having some CHOs between sessions at 0.7g/kg for recovery and replenishing of glycogen. I would like to note that extra CHO consumption hasn’t been shown to have any performance benefits, but on the contrary the extra weight gain that might follow could hurt performance.

For power sports, protein synthesis is the name of the game. Complete proteins are essential for protein synthesis. By complete I mean proteins that contain all the EAAs or essential amino acids. Those are the building blocks during muscle protein synthesis, especially leucine.

This is where all protein isn’t created equal. Red meat, chicken, fish, and eggs are all rich in EAAs along with whey protein if you supplement. The recommendation is 1.8 to 2 grams per kilogram of bodyweight. Based on the latest information, if you are trying to cut weight and maintain muscle mass, upwards of 3 grams/kg have been shown to have good results. Not to mention, the extra protein has been shown to increase the thermic effect of food and to increase satiety. If you want to get jacked or stay jacked, this is one area you want to focus on. When you train, muscle protein breakdown is occurring. Complete sources of protein are the building blocks needed to repair damaged muscle fibers, making them bigger and stronger than ever.

What about fat? After you determine your daily caloric needs and figure out the two recommendations for CHO and Protein, the rest will come from fat. There isn’t a big need for fat when it comes to power sports. These sports are too short in time duration to ever get into the aerobic phases where fats are used efficiently for energy. Fat is needed for other processes in the body, so I am not recommending a fat-free diet. However, fat isn’t going to be the priority.

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Hydration and Supplements

Now this is where most of you miss the mark. Dehydration levels of less than 1% can have negative effects on power athletes. At levels of 3-4% muscular strength and power is majorly affected. One ounce per kilogram of bodyweight is a safe amount. I recommend drinking 20% of that amount four hours before training or competition and 10% two hours before. Then continue to drink water throughout training or competition. Many studies have shown several top athletes lacked optimal hydration.

As far as supplements go, obviously creatine is a good idea. This will saturate the muscles with more available sources of PCr in the muscles, which as we stated above is the critical energy source. Whey protein is filled with EAAs, making it a smart choice for athletes needing help getting in the proper amounts of complete protein. Vitamin D might also be a good micronutrient to supplement, since we found many athletes are slightly deficient.

Taking Control of Your Weight

As a strength and conditioning coach, one of the most common conversations I have with athletes is whether they should gain or lose weight.

Of course, when you are talking to athletes the conversation revolves around function for his or her sport. In the real world, which is where I personally live at this point of my life, the conversation is normally centered around weight loss for health and/or cosmetic reasons. At 47 years old with four children and a wife I absolutely adore, weight loss and cardiovascular health are the main concerns of my training. I still enjoy lifting heavy and even competing in strength sports, but it’s simply not the priority.

The Science

In this article, I am going to explain the science behind weight loss and weight gain. I am also going to explain the different aspects of each. Finally, I am going to give you some simple tips to help with each. I am also going to explain why some people have an easier time losing weight while others have an easier time gaining. When this article is over, the weight loss and weight gain mystery will be solved. Then you will have to ask yourself if you are willing to do what it takes. We are all capable of losing and gaining weight, but most of us are not willing to do the work. I believe my readers are capable of doing whatever they want.

I am going to start with weight loss because losing weight has the potential to help the most people. Being overweight contributes heavily to the development of type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is preventable, which is the sad part. The Center for Disease Control has made the prediction that children born in 2000 have a 1 in 3 chance of developing type 2 diabetes in their lifetime. Guys, we have to do better as a society. This is one of the negatives of being an affluent country. Proportions continually increase while activity levels continue to decrease.

Calorie Intake

At the end of the day, weight loss and weight gain comes down to calorie intake versus calorie expenditure. It’s simple math guys. That’s why I get so mad when one of my athletes or adult clients tells me they can’t lose weight or gain weight. The truth is each of us have the ability to lose or gain, but we might not be willing to do whatever it takes. Let’s take a look at the aspects that go into losing weight.

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The first thing to figure out whether you are losing weight or gaining weight is how many calories you are burning every day. There are four components to account for when figuring out daily calorie expenditure, and they are resting metabolic rate, thermic effect of food, physical activity levels, and nonexercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) is the amount of calories one might burn staying in bed and avoiding activity. It’s the calories needed by the body to function – for example pumping the heart and breathing with the lungs. RMR is also a reflection of the energy required to produce hormones, which is why people with hypoactive thyroid glands have a tougher time losing weight while individuals with a hyperactive thyroid gland lose weight easily. Both of these issues are correctable of course. There are equations you can use to figure out your RMR, which you can easily look up on a search engine. I am going to give you one equation at the end to figure out the total daily expenditure, which is the really important number to understand.

Thermic effect of food is defined as energy expenditure above the resting metabolic rate in response to ingestion of food. This is the energy needed to digest, absorb, transport, and assimilate the food we eat. One thing to consider is the thermic effects of food vary. Fat has the lowest thermic effect of food at 3%, carbohydrates at 5-10%, and protein with the highest at 20-30%. This is one of the reasons why some of the latest research shows that people consuming 400+ extra calories per day in protein are still not gaining weight. Of course protein also has a satiety effect – meaning protein makes you feel full. I guess to a small degree not all calories are created equal. However keep in mind the thermic effect of food only accounts for around 10% of the calories ingested, so don’t go too crazy on the protein tonight.

Physical Activity

Physical Activity Level (PAL) accounts for 10-30% of the calories consumed. Obviously, more exercise will result in more calories burned. However, if you’re thinking you will exercise your calories away, let me first give you an idea of what that looks like. It takes about one mile of walking or 2,000 steps (if you are counting steps) to burn 100 calories, and it takes 3,500 calories to burn one pound of fat. Therefore you are going to need to walk 35 miles just to burn off one pound of fat, and that’s only if you don’t increase your current calories. The point is that exercise along with getting a grip on your nutrition is the ticket to long term health.

Besides just burning fat, cardiovascular work helps to increase the thermic effect of food, which is why those short walks after dinner are so good for us. Of course, strengthening the heart is a bonus as well, and now is a good time to say health is a lot more than just burning calories and fat. Strength training should be a part of the process as well.

Strength training leads to an increase in the thermic effect of food as well along with an overall increase in the resting metabolic rate. Moderate weight training isn’t going to increase the RMR much, but it will lead to an increase in the thermic effect of food and a strengthening of the bones and joints. I hope you’re starting to see a holistic effect is going to be your best bet.

Nonexercise Activity Thermogenesis is probably the reason why some people seem to eat whatever they want while never gaining weight. My mother is 70 years old, stands 5’5”, and weighs 125 pounds. She can absolutely out-eat any man I have ever known if she wants to. However, she is the most active woman I have ever known. She’s up every morning at 5am cleaning the house, getting ready for the day, and simply moving around. She never sits still. If you will look closely, there is always a reason why some people lose weight easily and some do not. The people who struggle are probably not very active, while the skinny ones who make us all so mad never seem to chill out.

The Calculation

So how does one figure out how many calories they are currently burning? The United States Department of Health and Human Services contracted a panel of expert scientists to develop an equation to estimate one’s daily energy expenditure based on age, gender, weight, height, and daily activity level. Here’s what that looks like:

  • For a male, the equation is: 662 – (9.53 x age) + [Physical Activity Level x (15.9 x weight + 540 x height)]
  • For a female, the equation is 354 – (6.91 x age) + [Physical Activity Level x (9.35 x weight + 726 x height)]

For the Physical Activity Level, the following is how you determine the value:

  • 1.00 Sedentary – someone who sits all day.
  • 1.11 Low Level of Physical Activity – someone who sits most of the day except to walk around to accomplish a few tasks.
  • 1.25 Active – someone who exercises one hour every single day
  • 1.48 Very Active – someone who exercises several hours every day (like a marathon runner)

Goals and Tips

Once you figure out your daily expenditure, then you need to decide your goals. Do you want to gain weight or lose weight?

If you want to lose weight, I suggest finding ways to limit calories and start exercising more. A great way to start is to increase your protein intake by one hundred calories while decreasing either fat or carbohydrates by two hundred calories. This is only one hundred calories per day, so you probably won’t even notice it much. However there is a chance the protein will increase the thermic effect of food you take in and make you feel more full or decrease your appetite. If you add in some extra cardiovascular work and strength training, you will slowly start losing weight without a huge feeling of hunger. Here are some other tips for losing weight:

  • Use smaller plates – Portion sizes are out of control in America. It’s literally killing us. We simply need to get back to moderation.
  • Increase the portion sizes of your fruits and vegetables – Clearly I am not talking about the heavy starches like potatoes and rice. I am referring to broccoli, kale, squash, and some fruits as well. You will experience a feeling of satiety making you satisfied to eat your 6 ounces of steak versus the normal 12 ounces. I am talking to myself right now.
  • Drink a glass or two of water before eating – Believe it or not, food is the way our bodies hydrate if we don’t take in enough liquids, not to mention the increased satiety.
  • Choose a solution you can stick to – The key is to decrease calories and increase activity levels. Find a way that works for you, and I want you to realize my way might not be the way that works for you. I love to lift weights, and you may hate it. I like protein and fat, and you might like carbs.
  • Don’t bring it in the house – Lately this is key for my success. I have only had one beer in about three weeks because it’s not in the house. It’s a habit, and I love the taste. If you put the two together, you have a calorie monster. The same goes for cookies, cake, or whatever is your weak spot.
  • Take a short walk after each meal – This will help to increase the thermic effect of food, and it will help increase activity levels. Plus a short walk is therapeutic, so leave your dang phone at home. I want you to spend time with the Creator (if you believe), and simply let the brain rest. Once again I am talking to myself.
  • Find ways to ease stress – Ok I am convinced I am writing this entire thing to myself.

Making a Difference

I was inspired to write this by my trip with Barbell Shrugged to Walmart’s HQ in Arkansas. I realized at that moment we have the chance to actually make a difference in general population throughout the world. We have a chance to affect the people in places like my hometown in Ashe County, North Carolina. We have a chance to bring science based health and fitness to the people who need it the most. When I realized that, my entire world flip flopped.

That doesn’t mean I have abandoned my muscle-bound freaks who love the iron. I still love you guys. To be sure you can use the same formula above to find out the amount of calories you have to surpass to gain muscle. It’s really difficult to gain lean muscle mass while in a caloric deficit. Therefore if you want to put on substantial pounds, you have to eat a lot.

I want to end by making one point. Whether you want to gain weight or lose weight, there is a mathematical equation to figure it out precisely. The first Law of Thermodynamics states energy is neither created nor destroyed but simply transformed. So when you tell me you eat all the time and simply can’t gain weight I know you are lying. It also means when you tell me you have been “eating good and hardly anything” I know you are lying. Calories don’t disappear, and they don’t expand once in your body.

I am not trying to be mean. I am trying to get all of you to have a moment of accountability. You need to look yourself in the mirror and take 100% responsibility for whatever you see in the reflection, whether good or bad. Only then can you start to make a difference to that very reflection. You have to stop blaming your parents, your spouse, or anyone else, and take full responsibility. You won’t believe what a freeing feeling that is because it will give you the power to transform yourself into whatever you can conceive. Now I want you to take the first step, and jump in front of that mirror.

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Ketogenic Diet for Athletes

This week in my EXS 505 Sports Nutrition class, we were assigned two articles which discussed the ins and outs of the ketogenic diet.

Some of the findings could be of interest to a few of my readers, so I thought I would give you a peak at the findings. To be fair, I must tell you I read both of these articles with a bit of skepticism, so I am going to start with views coming in to reading these two. First, the articles are referenced at the end of this discussion (Paoli, et. al., 2015) and (Zinn, et. al., 2017). Feel free to check out both of these articles on your own if you want to take a deeper dive.

My bias

Admittedly my weak spot up until now is nutrition. I know the basics, but my passion lies in biomechanics, anatomy, programming, physics, and hypertrophy. I was definitely glad to be taking this course, and I have been nothing but pleased with the professor. For any of you who don’t know, I am on the long journey to obtain my PhD in Human Performance at Lenoir-Rhyne University with the first stop being a Masters in Exercise Science.

I am a huge follower of Dr. Layne Norton and Dr. Andy Galpin, and like most credible professors they emphasize calories in versus calories out. They don’t credit any of these diets with a lot more than just creative ways to limit calories. Most of everything I have read confirms what they are saying. However, I see now each diet has its pros and cons. Normally I am talking about small nuances, but sometimes, small nuances are all that is needed to make a big difference. Now let’s dive into what I learned.


Weight Loss (especially short term) – The biggest reason this form of diet seems to work is the natural appetite suppression as a result of the higher satiety of proteins, effects on appetite hormones such as ghrelin, and possibly a sort of direct appetite-blocking effect of KB. There is also reduced lipogenesis and increased fat oxidation, a reduction in respiratory quotient may indicate a greater metabolic efficiency in fat oxidation, and a thermic effect of proteins and increased energy usage by glucogenesis. (Paoli, et. al., 2015)

However, all of this could simply point to fewer calories. I mean, not many people can eat extra calories of just fat and protein. Obviously you can’t create fat storage if there aren’t extra calories to go around. Once again, if there aren’t a lot of calories from carbs, the body has to burn more fat for fuel. It really comes down to what one can sustain. If you lead a busy lifestyle that makes counting calories bothersome, this might very well be a great way to cut some pounds before a competition or to fit in that wedding dress.

One big reason for this being a great way to cut weight before a meet is because the initial weight reduction is related to a loss in body water through glycogen depletion. (Zinn, et. al., 2017) That is probably why there isn’t a lot of strength and power lost from this type of diet. Which of course brings me to my next point.

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Athletes Maintain Strength and Power – As of the Paoli, et. al. article in 2015, there was only research study that looked at KD’s (ketogenic diet) effects on strength and power. This was a study of 25 gymnasts over 30 days. They were provided 2.8 grams of protein per kg of body weight, less than 20 grams per day of carbohydrates, and the rest from fats with that amount being unlimited. The key for athletes is an adequate amount of protein must be used. In this study, the athletes maintained strength and power, while also maintaining lean body mass.

KD and Endurance – Here we had a bit of conflict in the two studies with Paoli, et. al., 2015 showing improvements in VO2 Max, improved fat oxidation with no detrimental effect on maximal or submaximal markers or aerobic exercise markers or muscle strength. It also showed cognitive improvements, which I will go over a bit later. Zinn, et. al., 2017 showed some decreases in performance which could have come from any of these factors:

  • It takes 7 days to adapt to a KD diet, and during those 7 days there will be a drop in performance.
  • Electrolytes need to be given during KD, both potassium and sodium.
  • The amount of protein is another key because the need goes up due to glucogenesis.
  • I would add that volume needs to be adjusted during the first seven days to account for the dip in performance, and it will take several weeks to recover from the overreaching.

Improved Psychological Markers – This one is my favorite. Here are a few of the improvements noted by both studies:

  • Improved rates of learning and memory
  • Increased synaptic plasticity, which when added to learning new skills or information, becomes a long-term advantage
  • Alleviates symptoms of depression
  • Improved sense of well-being
  • Higher rates of energy
  • Improved skin and hair

The only negative noted was Muscle Mass. A KD activates AMPK (5’adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase) which in turn inhibits mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) a mechanism necessary for regulating muscle mass. KD also blunts the IGF-1/AKT/mTOR pathway also reducing the possibility of gaining muscle mass. (Paoli, et. al. 2015) Of course all of this to say it is almost impossible to gain muscle in a caloric deficit. The bottom-line is an athlete needs to know if they way to pack on muscle, restricting calories in not a good idea.

Both articles painted a fairly good picture for KD. I am not 100% convinced it doesn’t boil down to calories, but it’s worth looking into. If you are an athlete cutting weight, it might be a good idea to spend 21 to 30 days with a ketogenic diet. You will shed some weight and stay strong. Below are a few questions we were asked to answer which might shed some more light on things. I hope you enjoyed!

Further Q&As

1 – State one surprising thing you learned from the Paoli et al. article. Note why it was surprising to you.
I was surprised to find out the KD could possibly be linked to multiple improvements in the CNS including multiple positive psychological improvements. We know the brain’s source of energy is normally glucose, so to see the body’s adaptive ability to not only survive without it, but possibly function even better, is quite mind-blowing. There were three main CNS improvements that caught my eye: improved behavioral and motor performance tests, learning, and memory, increased synaptic plasticity, and alleviated depressive symptoms. (Paoli et al., 2015)

If this is true, a KD could possibly make athletes smarter and increase the number of synapses in the brain. They are talking about increasing the network, which definitely intrigues me to read more and reach out to a few experts in the field. Athletes who need improved focus and reaction times could definitely benefit if this is the case. Also, this weekend I had the chance to work with a nonprofit, FitOps, which is an organization created to eliminate veteran suicide by teaching a three-week course designed to certify them as personal trainers, give them the business skills to be successful, and provides placement within the community. The finding regarding potential improvements in depression could be useful to the entire organization.

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2 – State one thing you question (because it goes against something previously learned or actually observed/experienced) or disagree with in either of the articles you were asked to read. (Remember to use in-text citations when referencing articles.)
The comprehensive article from Paoli interested me the most due to the low participation, and the average age of 50-years-old of the other article that I was assigned from Zinn (I mainly work with athletes between the ages of 16 and 30 – not age discrimination), and I was blown away by the findings regarding muscle mass. One of my earlier mentors, Charles Poliquin, was an early adopter of the LCHF diet approach. He was also a very famous strength coach for pro bodybuilders – not to mention some of the best professional and Olympic athletes on Earth. I watched him with my own eyes add muscle mass to athletes with KD plans. Therefore, Paoli’s statement regarding muscle mass is definitely challenging.

Hence, it appears somewhat contradictory there is widespread use of KD in bodybuilders also during “bulk up” periods, while all data regarding biochemical and molecular mechanisms suggest that it is very difficult to increase muscle mass during a KD; (Paoli, et. al. 2015). I have to assume it boils down to the characteristic reduction in calories due to appetite reduction from protein satiety and the overall appetite blocking effect of KB. However, I look forward to the opinion of my classmates and especially Professor Helsel.

3 – Did either of these articles change your views on ketogenic diets? (Explain by stating “how” and/or “why”). Remember to use in-text citations when referencing articles.
The intriguing aspect of the article by Zinn were the increases in overall well-being, recovery, improved skin conditions, improved memory and other cognitive abilities, and reduction in inflammation which was enough to interest me personally to try more of a KD. (Zinn, 2017). KD is becoming more and more popular, and I believe most diets are cyclical in nature. I pride myself in avoiding such fads. However, since I am a 47-year-old grad student, I have to at least look deeper into the cognitive and overall health improvements.

4 – If you have a client or athlete who wants to try a ketogenic diet to gain a competitive edge, what approach would you take with this client? (Include your rationale and whether you would provide the same advice/approach for all, or vary based on type of athlete).
Based on the information in both assigned articles, I would consider trying out a KD for a more optimal weight cut. I am the Head Coach of the inaugural Olympic Weightlifting Team at LRU. It’s of course a weight class sport, so optimal cuts to make weight at the top of a class while maintaining strength is a big part of the sport. It’s appealing to consider making a cut without restricting water and food, without using a sauna, and without spitting.

Our team has several 2024 Olympic hopefuls, so I can’t simply “try something” at a big national or international meet. I would try a KD out at a local meet beginning at 21-days out to get over the initial performance decrease experienced during the first few days. The main thing I would be looking for in the first meet is exactly how much weight is shed without further restrictions. The key is to get a potential percentage. Therefore, if the athlete drops 2% from KD only, I can assume 2% of a cut in an athlete who isn’t restricted to a KD will come from the KD alone. That will let me know how much needs to come from other means such as increased activity or further restrictions in calories – aka calories in vs. calories out.

Here’s an example. If I have a 73kg male athlete, I normally like him to stay within 2-3% of their bodyweight or 1.46-2.19kg. If we find a KD alone sheds 2%, then we can expect our athlete to easily shed the weight – and based on Paoli, keep his power and strength. This could be a really big advantage for our athletes as well as a healthy alternative. (Paoli, et. al., 2015).


Paoli, A., A. Bianco, and Grimaldi, K.A. (2015). The Ketogenic Diet and Sport: A Possible Marriage?. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, Vol. 43, pp. 153-162

Zinn, C., Wood, M., Williden, M., Chatterton, S., and Maunder, E. (2017). Ketogenic Diet Benefits body composition and well-being but no performance in a pilot case study of New Zealand endurance athletes. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 14:22 DOI 10.1186/s12970-017-0180-0

Core Skills: Properly Reading Nutrition Labels

Our overall philosophy for nutrition at Mash Elite is to meet our clients where they are. While macronutrient counting is the foundation with most of our clients, it can look very different based on the goals, needs, and knowledge of individual clients.

As a nutrition coach, there are a couple of important things you need to know about a client besides what their needs and goals are.

You need to know what THEY know.

Do they know the basics of nutrition? (What is a calorie and why is it important?) Have they ever counted macros before? Do they know how to read a nutrition label?

We have two main goals with our nutrition coaching at Mash Elite. One is to help our clients reach their goals. The other is to teach them.

To learn more about the basics of nutrition, check out this article I wrote. I always include this article in my welcome email to my clients! It breaks down what I want and need my clients to know if they are to be successful. They don’t know what they don’t know. And, they may not know what to ask. This helps to take control right off the bat and learn the whys and hows of basic nutritional components.

It is also extremely important to learn how to read a label.

What you should be considering is:

  1. Serving size
  2. How many servings there are in the package or container
  3. Sodium
  4. Protein
  5. Fat (especially saturated fats)
  6. Total carbohydrates
  7. Sugar content
  8. Dietary fiber and sugar alcohol

The above is important because you will often find multiple servings in a package or container and what is listed on the labeling is for a single serving. For instance, take a look at M&M’s. Depending on the size of the package, you could have 4-6 servings in it. The label details the nutritional content of one serving. If you eat the whole package, you would have to multiply what is on the label by 6!

Take the following label for instance – it has 9 servings in the package. 11 pieces are 140 calories, 20g of carbohydrates, 6g of fat, and less than 1 gram of protein. Unless you count out 11 pieces and hide the bag, have you ever eaten just 1 serving??? I know it’s very challenging for me!

Let’s take a healthier food and look at how not understanding serving size and labels can be detrimental to your goals. Here is a label for cocoa almonds. YUM! This particular package has 15 servings! 31g is a serving. This is equal to about 20 or so almonds. Those 20 almonds have 180 calories, 11g of carbohydrates, 13g of fat, and 5g of protein. Same as with the M&M’s, unless you count out 20 almonds and hide the package, how often do you just eat one serving? I know I can put 5-10 almonds in my mouth at one time!

Deeper into Carbs

There are two ways to look at carbohydrate consumption: total carbs and net carbs. Total carbs include all the different types (starch, sugar, fiber) while net carbs only include what the body can break down into glucose, which excludes fiber and sugar alcohols. Depending on what your goals are and if you are on a low carb or higher carb diet will determine whether you are counting overall carbs or net carbs.

For a visual, below, you see a label for a Quest protein bar. The total carbohydrates are 24g. Dietary fiber is 17g and sugar alcohol is 6g. The net carbs for this bar would be 1g (24-17-6= 1g). I personally want my clients to count it as 24g rather than 1g, but that may not always be the case. For example, when I was on a low carb, high fat, high protein plan, I could eat protein bars, but they had to have low net carbs like the Quest bar below.

Personally, my body does not do well with sugar alcohols and high fiber products. I get bloated and uncomfortable. For others, it doesn’t bother them at all. I find it is best to minimize how much sugar alcohol you have in your diet and get your fiber from your fruits and veggies rather than a processed protein bar.

Whole Foods

When it comes to foods like fruits and vegetables – as well as traditional meats like fish, chicken, or beef – macros and quality is pretty straight forward. However, if you are looking at quantity (macro counting) rather than just quality (paleo/keto), you want to still know the breakdown of whole foods as well. You will still want to look at:

  1. Sugar in the fruit (it is natural sugar, but some fruit has a much higher sugar content than others). An example would be a cup of strawberries versus a banana. A cup of strawberries has 11.7 carbs (3g of fiber/7.4g sugar) while a banana has 27g of carbs (3.1g of fiber/14.4g of sugar).
  2. Fat in the meat (different cuts of meat have higher fat content). An example would be a 4 oz ribeye versus a 4 oz sirloin. The 4 oz ribeye has roughly 19g of protein and 27g of fat while the 4 oz sirloin has roughly 23g of protein and 12g of fat. If you were counting your macros and were on a 50g per day fat intake, eating the ribeye could be problematic without prior planning.

Here is what I suggest, especially if you are new to tracking what you eat.

  1. Keep a 3-day diary of everything you put into your mouth. That includes liquids, food, and supplements.
  2. Write down how you were feeling around those meal times. Were you actually hungry or were you eating out of boredom?
  3. Don’t hold back or be embarrassed. Write it down.
  4. Plug it into an app like My Fitness Pal.

What this is going to do is show you trends in the way you eat. It will also show you how much you are actually eating.

For some, it will be a wake up call that you are overeating. For others, it is going to say you aren’t eating enough. Your body needs a minimum amount of calories (basal metabolic rate) for it to function with involuntary actions such as breathing, hormone production, etc. Add in any activity to include any type of movement (total daily energy expenditure) and the body’s requirement increases.

Both BMR and TDEE are influenced by things we cannot change like our age and our gender. But, they are also influenced by our lean muscle mass to body fat ratio. TDEE is influenced by our activity level. If you don’t already know these two things, it would be a good idea to find a nutrition coach like we offer here at Mash Elite. Having a nutrition coach is the ideal route to go. You have the accountability aspect, the expertise of the coach to make changes based on your feedback, and you get customized planning based on your needs and goals. If you aren’t quite ready for that, there are calculators you can search for that will give you a good starting point.

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I will close with this. No matter how you choose to reach your goals (macro counting, keto, paleo, carnivore, vertical diet, etc), some absolutes still hold true for all.

  1. Prior planning is key to success
  2. Read your labels
  3. A calorie is a calorie no matter what type of diet you are in. If you consume more calories than you burn, in all likelihood, you will gain weight. If you burn more calories than you consume, in all likelihood, you will lose weight.

Don’t just blindly follow the latest and greatest magical diet. Read and learn the science of nutrition and experiment on yourself what works best for you.

About Crystal: Crystal is Travis’ right hand person! She is a USA Weightlifting National Coach and holds her NSCA – Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist certification. She is an RN with a Masters degree in Nurse Education. She also holds multiple other certifications to include CFL2, USATF, Precision Nutrition, and Flex Diet. She is also an international elite ranked powerlifter.

Coaches: Use Your Quarantine Time Wisely

Fun fact: the daily routine in our house hasn’t changed much the last four weeks other than we are training at home rather than the gym.

Lack of Control

As I sit here writing this article, my family and I are on day 29 of a quarantine – which was initially voluntary but then turned into a mandatory policy to stay at home. The world has stood still and life has slowed down for almost everyone. The end date is yet to be determined.

All eyes are on COVID-19 and how it is tearing through the world. There are amazing and brave people out there. One of our athletes, Courtney Haldeman, goes to work daily as an RN here in our city, just waiting for the fallout to happen. So far, they are not overrun so they have had a bit more time to prepare than some of the hot zones like New York. The bottom line is this: there are so many things going on with this virus that are out of our control. The virus doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, black or white, homeless or live in a fancy mansion, famous, an athlete, young or old, etc. We are all facing the same thing. Unfortunately, some have been hit harder than others financially, and it breaks my heart to see so many people struggling in this industry who were thriving just last month.

The fitness world has been hit hard by this pandemic. For anyone who works in a setting coaching athletes face to face, you have had to be quick on your feet, think outside the box, and learn to adapt to the new normal. For those of us who have an online presence, we have also had to think on our feet as some of our athletes lost access to gym equipment and some have been hit financially with job losses. There are definitely more things that are out of our control than are within our control.

What We Can Control

At this point, all we can do is focus on what we can control. Two of the things we as coaches can control are:

  • Our perspective and attitude
  • How we utilize our time daily
Keep Improving!

Professional development is so important to us as coaches. Many of us are consumed by our daily commitments to our athletes and/or to our gyms that we don’t have the time (or we don’t take the time) we would like to advance our own learning or to create content. This is a chink in a lot of coaches’ armor, and now is the time to change that. There are so many resources at the touch of a finger.

Now, there are two sides to this coin. There are the new coaches who need to be sponges and soak up as much information as possible. Then, there are the coaches with years and years of experience who can take this time to teach the new coaches. I personally fall in the middle – but more toward the former. I am knowledgeable and have experience under my belt, but I still have so much more to learn. The day a coach stops learning is the day the coach needs to stop coaching. The tool box can never be too big!



It's finally here... Learn about technique, programming, assessment, and coaching from a master. For strength coaches and for athletes, these 53 videos (7 hours and 56 minutes of footage) will prepare you to understand the main lifts for maximum performance and safety. Get ready to learn...

Here are ways to advance yourself during this time:

  • Identify your strengths and weaknesses. Be honest with yourself.
  • Create content on subjects you identify as strengths. This will help you to enhance your own knowledge while helping younger coaches expand theirs.
  • Look for resources you can use to further your knowledge in areas that you identify as weaknesses. Even the most experienced of coaches have areas they can improve on.
  • Create a daily schedule for family, work, and professional development. This will look different for everyone based on family and work obligations. Put aside 30 minutes to an hour minimum daily to work on your professional development. This could include taking a course, reading a book, reviewing articles, or watching roundtable videos.

There are many resources out there – some are good and some are not so good. Make sure what you choose is backed by science and is evidence based. Young coaches can often make the mistake of taking a seasoned coach’s opinion as science. The mistake comes from following blindly rather than doing their own research. When you read or watch something, don’t just take it at face value. Follow up with your own research and make your own conclusions based on your findings. Seasoned coaches, provide content to newer coaches that is backed by science and not just your opinion. Just because you teach something a certain way or include/exclude an exercise based on personal preference, does not mean that it is an absolute or the law. There is nothing wrong with sharing an opinion – just be sure to express that it is your preference or opinion rather than a “should” or “must.”

Stay Productive

I’m not exempt from my own advice! I have been working on my own professional development the last four weeks in quarantine. It was challenging to start, but creating a schedule and making lists has made it much more manageable to be productive each day. Here are some ways that I am working on myself as a coach:

  • Coaching athletes – Technology has been absolutely amazing with applications like Zoom. Here at Mash Elite, we have started doing Zoom training sessions with our onsite athletes. We have also opened it up to our online athletes, which is a newly added feature for them!
  • Analyzing athlete videos – Travis started doing more of this the last couple of weeks with a combination of Coach’s Eye and Bar Path. It has been amazing. I do video analysis for our online athletes as they post in our Facebook group, but recently, I have started taking videos from the side or asking online athletes to send me videos. Using the apps I just spoke of, I can analyze videos in new ways to show my athletes how they can improve their bar path. It also allows me to post the video on social media and teach other coaches. This helps others – but it also makes me a better coach as I articulate the lift.
  • Reading content on subject matters I have identified as weaknesses – I don’t want to just be a one trick pony. One of my weaknesses in particular is speed work. When this is all over, one of my goals is to be more knowledgeable in this area.
  • Staying in touch with my mentors – Talking shop via phone, Zoom, or Facetime is an awesome (and entertaining) way to increase your knowledge. Just recently, while writing new programs, Travis and I had a great conversation about the parameters to elicit hypertrophy with a no-equipment or minimal-equipment program.
  • Seeking out online continuing education courses – Because of social distancing, many platforms have moved to being online. For most courses, you can get the same educational experience as you can with a live course (minus the networking and practical portions if applicable).
  • Creating an exercise library – this will be of benefit to our athletes and other coaches to better teach movements.

Will you be productive every minute of every day? No. But I promise you this: the time you do spend on your professional development will make you a better coach – which will in turn make your athletes better.


Here are some resources I personally recommend that have been extremely helpful to me. They are all based on science and all coaches involved are very reputable.

  • Strength University – we recently launched an eight-unit online curriculum that covers all the areas we at Mash Elite Performance are known for. Travis covers assessments, mobility, movements, flaws, fixing flaws, and much more. I can promise you I am not just telling you this for a sale. I spent several days going through the entire curriculum creating print-outs for the course – and I learned so much in subjects I already thought I already knew well!
    You can go here to purchase: Strength University



It's finally here... Learn about technique, programming, assessment, and coaching from a master. For strength coaches and for athletes, these 53 videos (7 hours and 56 minutes of footage) will prepare you to understand the main lifts for maximum performance and safety. Get ready to learn...

  • Stronger Experts – This is a panel of strength coaches with expertise in various areas. They are always creating amazing new content. There is a monthly or yearly subscription that gets you access to all of their content. I have yet to watch or read anything on Stronger Experts where I didn’t learn something!
    You can learn more here: Stronger Experts
  • Stronger by Science (MASS) – If you follow us at all, you have heard us talk about Greg Nuckols. He is a researcher and is extremely good at his job. He and his colleagues do the work for you. They do all the research on subject matters and put it together in very well written, easy to understand articles. There is a monthly or yearly subscription that gives you access to all of their content.
    You can learn more here: Stronger by Science
  • Two Brain Business – I am late to the party on this business as they have been working to make gyms successful for a while now. I found them in the midst of this pandemic, and they have done an amazing job of providing valuable information to the fitness industry on how to stay profitable through it.
    Check out their Instagram page: Two Brain Business

Of course there are other resources out there, but these are most definitely my top four. They are also four very different platforms providing you with access to videos, journals, and multiple experts in their field.

When you emerge from this quarantine, will you be carrying a larger tool box? I know I will!

About Crystal: Crystal is Travis’ right hand person! She is a USA Weightlifting National Coach and holds her NSCA – Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist certification. She is an RN with a Masters degree in Nurse Education. She also holds multiple other certifications to include CFL2, USATF, Precision Nutrition, and Flex Diet. She is also an international elite ranked powerlifter.

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