I have tried every possible diet found on the internet, anything from keto to low fat, to paleo, to juice cleanses. Some of these diets are beneficial and can be life-changing to someone with health issues or if someone already tends to eat along with those guidelines. I won’t sit here and tell you I didn’t lose weight because I did. However, one thing I can tell you that all these fad diets had in common is that they all put me in a caloric deficit. I bet you’re reading this with the urge to roll your eyes, but I can guarantee you that your chosen ‘diet” is making you eat less than your usual habits. The secret to having an unrestricted diet where you can still feel the benefit of tracking your food and practicing awareness is to count your macronutrients. I won’t go too far into detail here however I would recommend that you shift gears from a dieting perspective to a tracking perspective (you get to eat pizza). With all that being said, there are still choices you will be facing every day, and here I will list my top 5 most chosen foods that you can catch me eating any day of the week. Along with my daily supplements, these foods provide me with energy, nutrients, gut health, and so much more.
Chicken Oh yes, the infamous chicken breast you see on the plate of any bodybuilder. Different parts of the chicken contain different amounts of protein and fat per gram. With a whopping 30grams of protein per 100grams of chicken, you get a very lean protein option that you can cook in countless ways. With vegetarian protein options, you have to consider the carbohydrate increase in exchange for higher protein content. One great protein option is tofu! About 8-9grams of protein per 100grams with only 2grams of carbs!
Quinoa The whole grail of superfood complex carbs! Quinoa takes the body longer to break down, resulting in a slower spike in blood sugar (check out the glycemic index). It is packed with 8grams of protein per cup, micronutrients, 40grams of carbs, and keeps you full for longer.
Sweet potato This incredible vegetable is not only packed with 20grams of carbs per 100g of sweet potato, but it has got a significant source of vitamins, electrolytes, and fiber. This is a great lower carb option for those who like to save their carbs for treats or are taking a low carb approach.
Cauliflower You might be surprised to see this one on here. I mention cauliflower because it is SO versatile. This section will include a broader perspective on root vegetables. Cauliflower in particular is a great food for a few reasons. First, it is low in carbs and fats, and high inadequate in fiber with a sprinkle of protein! Another big reason this is here is because of what I call volume foods. Volume foods are often vegetables that take up space and have micronutrients but aren’t rich in macronutrients. These foods help a small meal look and feel bigger, helping you get satiated from a relatively small meal! One thing I love about cauliflower is that you can turn it into pizza. You read that correctly! Cauliflower can be turned into a dough with a few simple ingredients! You can mash it, turn it into rice, roast it, or season it up with some spices and almond flour to bake them into wings!
Kimchi Another one that most people will tilt their heads when reading. Kimchi is a fermented mix of vegetables and spices that is absolutely loaded in probiotics, healthy bacteria, and other nutrients. Kimchi provides proper nutrients to support the health of our microbiome, or to put it simply, our gut. Our gut is a sacred place where foods get absorbed, nutrients get facilitated, and hormones get produced/stored (guess what: 90% of our serotonin gets produced in our digestive tract. Healthy gut= happiness). Now, these benefits are not limited to kimchi, many fermented products like sauerkraut and kombucha will have similar benefits depending on the ingredients!
Growing up, I have always been involved in martial arts. I found a love for Karate at a young age, and that paved my way to pursuing various arts such as Muay Thai, Taekwondo, and Jiu-Jitsu. It wasn’t until I was 16 years old that I suffered an injury that discouraged me from performing any form of physical activity, including gym class in high school. In a span of 8 months, I gained weight, lost conditioning, and started to develop body dysmorphia. Despite all those factors, the negative shift in energy and motivation that I experienced was the most significant indicator that I needed to make a change.
I DECIDED I COULD EITHER LET THIS INJURY TAKE OVER, OR I COULD GET A GRIP AND REGAIN MY STRENGTH AND POSITIVE SELF-PERCEPTION. I GOT TO WORK, AND THAT WAS THE FIRST TIME I HAD EVER STEPPED INTO A GYM BY MYSELF
By the age of 17, I had dropped 40 pounds and finally felt like I had control over my fitness. There was, however, one thing that I still couldn’t grasp, and it was the fact that my energy didn’t get back to where it was prior to my injury. I started to research what that could be the cause of and quickly learned that although I was nailing the macronutrients, I was failing to fulfill my micronutrients. Around this point in my journey, I felt a spark lit within me, and the more I researched micronutrients the more intrigued I was by how unique and different everyone can respond to nutrients, vitamins and minerals. It became clear to me that my diet was low in iron which contributed to my lack of energy. Soon enough, I became a regular at my gym, tracking my macros, and using high-quality supplements to add to my diet and support my micronutrients.
Today, as a fitness and health coach, I want to educate people on macronutrients because it taught me how amazing food can taste, and how flexible their diets can be while still achieving weight loss goals. I want to teach people about micronutrients because I learned how sensitive our systems can be and how energized, motivated, and good people can feel by only adjusting their vitamins and minerals.
Finally, I want to teach people how to move their bodies, feel stronger, shape their bodies into their dream physiques, and ultimately live a healthy lifestyle! All these lessons were taught through my personal journey, and they completely changed my life. The beauty of health and fitness is that every single person can pursue it. I am just like everybody else, and some days can be more challenging than others. You do not have to be perfect to achieve your goals, you just have to persevere and keep your eyes on the prize! I am stronger, leaner, and more motivated than I ever was and it is all because I became more conscious of my habits, and saw the benefits that I gained from investing in my health and fitness!
Any great trainer will let you know that nailing the fundamentals to any movement is the key to success with form, technique, and more efficient progress. You can take a push-up to a clap push-up without injuries if your regular push-up form is impeccable. You cannot leave the ground to clap in the air if the basic components of the regular push-up are not met. That goes for any exercise and its progressive variations. There is a lot of information out there for the best exercises to perform for weight loss, muscle gain, toning, core strength, flexibility, agility, and the list goes on. Here are my top 5 exercises that I perform at home and with my beginner clients. I chose these exercises because each of them activates multiple muscle groups, focuses on different aerobic and anaerobic capacities, and can be relatively progressive and regressive.
The squat is a fantastic movement to strengthen the lower body. you must also use the trunk muscles for stability during the descend and ascend. Lastly, you must use your erector spinae which are muscles coating the spinal column to keep the spine from flexing or extending. We do this movement every single day starting from when we stand up from the side of our bed. There are many different variations to the squat such as a split squat (lunge), sumo squat, pistol/single-legged squat, and so on. The key form pointers I use for my clients are:
Push the hips back and down
Keep chest open back straight
Knees in line with the toes, pointing in the direction of the pinky toes
Shoulders back away from your ears
Thigh parallel to the ground
The plank is an incredible exercise that is able to activate almost every part of the body. You require your core to maintain a lift off the ground, your quads extend the knee, your chest, and back, and your glutes maintain the posterior pelvic tilt. On top of the muscular benefits, the plank helps improve muscular endurance so you’re able to hold an isometric contraction longer. This is a great exercise to perform in order to improve posture because often times our posture is poor due to tight chest muscles, weak upper back muscles, and a weak core. The key form of pointers are:
Shoulders back and away from your ears
Elbows right below the shoulder joint
Tuck the tailbone in or squeeze the butt cheeks together
Pull the belly button to the spine
Think of keeping everything in one straight line from the top of the head to the heels
Focus on deep belly breaths (shallow breathing reduces the amount of oxygen going towards the muscles which makes them fatigue sooner)
I stress the strength of the core to all my clients because it is the key component to posture, healthy lower back, stronger pelvic floor, and a supportive mechanism to any loaded exercise (Yes, you do use your core even during a standing bicep curl). The glutes extend the hips and tilt the pelvis backward. Strengthening and growing the glutes aren’t just for looks! The gluteus maximus, the largest of the 3 gluteus muscles, is the largest muscle in the body and is the key contributor to our ability to stand up against gravity. Sprinting and moving uphill are among the many actions we perform with the help of the glutes. The form of key pointers are:
Feet hip-width apart and knees pointing in direction of the pinky-toes
When extending the hips, push through the heels
During extension, actively squeeze the glutes together to produce a tailbone tuck
At the top of the movement, you should be straight from the base of your neck to your knees
If there is any intense contraction or pain in the lower back, reduce the extension and focus on the form
This movement incorporates a dynamic feature to the plank. We want to strengthen the muscles involved in a push-up for the longevity of those muscles especially as we age so that we are able to catch a fall and push ourselves off the floor. There are many variations to the push-up such as knee push-ups, power pushups, one-arm pushups, wide grip, narrow grip, and many others. I always start my clients with a wide grip push-up so they are familiar with the motion and can feel their chest and triceps equally. The key form of pointers are:
Palms slightly wider than shoulder-width apart
Shoulders back and away from your ears, spine straight and locked in with the hips
Leading with your chest, lower the body toward the ground as a plank
Point the elbows our and slightly behind you as you descend
Many of you will see this word and immediately experience an increased heart rate! Hate to break it to you, but the burpee is an incredibly beneficial movement that incorporates strength, power, muscular and cardiovascular endurance, coordination, speed, and flexibility. With the vast amount of variations, I always tell my clients to stay within their range of motion, take their time, and think of the burpee as a multi-step process. First, lowering the hands to the ground requires a squat, jumping back into a high plank requires core and coordination, lowering the body into a pushup requires a straight back and upper body strength, jumping the feet back in towards the arms require coordination, core, power and strength, and jumping up towards the ceiling requires coordination, and full-body power. Key pointers:
Squat pointers on the descend
Plank pointers on the backward jump
Pushup pointers on the plank descend
When jumping in from the plank, try to land the heels below the knees and pop your hands off the ground at the same time
When jumping up treat it like coming up from a squat into a tall jump.
Anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely love having access to supplements because sometimes it just gets TOO complicated trying to get everything from food and sun! Whether I am preparing for a competition, a bulking season, the wintertime, or my workout, I tend to always have supplements that support me within those contexts! I am going to narrow down my list to the top 5 supplements that I believe are beneficial to anyone from the gym-goer to the professional athlete!
It is safe to say that there are different types of protein powders for different goals and dietary needs. This includes whey, isolate, vegan, and many more! Different types of protein powder provide different benefits, so I have a few key components I look out for when choosing my protein. First, I check how much carbohydrates there are, and how much of that is sugar. Sugar itself is not the culprit, but if one scoop exceeds the equivalent of a chocolate bar, you may not be doing yourself any favors. The amount of protein per scoop is important because you want to be getting the best bang for your buck! Anywhere from 24-30 grams per scoop is promising. My protein powder recommendation: Magnum Quattro Protein. This is a pharmaceutical-grade protein with 30 grams of protein per scoop and only 2 grams of carbs.
Vitamin D has an abundance of benefits including helping the body absorb calcium better to maintain bone health and improve our mood! Unfortunately, many people work indoors and don’t get enough sun exposure to fulfill their vitamin D, and most diets don’t consist of high concentrations of it either. Research shows around 4000IU of vitamin D a day is sufficient, and less is required if you anticipate being out in the sun more, especially during the summer!
I debated putting this on my top 5 list, but decided caffeine is something that needs to be discussed! I am personally very sensitive to 2 ingredients in most pre-workouts: Caffeine and Beta-Alanine. Beta-Alanine is often felt through the tingling you get at the tips of your fingers and nose after drinking a pre-workout with significant amounts of it! Most of us take some sort of stimulant in various amounts to keep ourselves moving throughout the day or as a pick-me-up. Personally, on days where I am anticipating a workout that requires more energy than I can give, I will take pre-workout to give me the little push I need to get things going.
My pre-workout recommendation: Magnum Pre-Fo. This pre-workout contains 100g of caffeine and 135g of Dicaffeine which is the equivalent of 200g of caffeine. Dicaffeine is a derivative of caffeine specifically targeting parts of our nervous system responsible for concentration and alertness.
Most of us don’t get an assortment of fruit and vegetables that can mimic a rainbow every single day. In fact, most athletes and competitors barely eat more than 2 or 3 different colored vegetables! Due to the lack of variety, we may experience symptoms like the faster onset of fatigue, lethargy, poor sleep quality, and struggles with concentration. Most of my clients would initially tell me they think they’re not eating enough. Oftentimes, it’s not the amount of food they are eating, it is the lack of variety that is the culprit. They may be lacking certain antioxidants, electrolytes, or minerals that all influence our hormones, nervous system, and all the cells in the entire body. Greens are essential in the fulfillment of those nutrients, and can guarantee that you are receiving at least some amount of those vitamins and minerals that you otherwise miss!
My green supplement recommendation: Magnum Performance Greens. This product is not only pharmaceutical grade, but it also contains 75 ingredients that all work well together to promote optimal absorption in our gut.
This one always stirs debate in my conversations with my clients. Sodium has a bad rep with its link to hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases. I am an avid believer in the concept of “everything in moderation”. Before we get ahead of ourselves, sodium definitely can be detrimental to our health, but oftentimes we see high amounts of sodium in very processed foods. Once that problem has been dealt with, an extra sprinkle of salt to your meal will actually benefit you! Sodium is an electrolyte, it has water carrying capacity and is the most important component of hydration on the cellular level. There is a reason why we are told to drink electrolytes, especially during endurance events or when we feel symptoms of dehydration. You can see the added sodium (amongst other electrolytes like potassium) on a nutrition label clear as day! That added sodium transports our water molecules to our cells, and the body is quite quick with its ability to absorb sodium to do its job very efficiently!