Transmit information or instructions by means of a gesture, action, or sound.

At the heart of our efforts to transform lie signals.

These signals (or behaviors) are what make our mind and body what they are.

When we lose fat or gain muscle, it is because not only did we send the signal(s) that corresponds to that outcome but we allowed our body the opportunity to process that signal (by cutting out other noise, confusion, and competing signals).

There is a formula for this process: Stimulus (signal) + Recovery = Adaptation

Worded a different way, it looks like this:


Let’s break it down.

Starting with the end product, body composition refers to the proportion of muscle and fat we carry. For most people, improving their body composition means adding more muscle while subtracting fat.

The signal that our body listens to for that to happen is exercise.  With this, there are essentially 2 different forms: One that sends a signal to our body to build (ie maintain or grow muscle mass) and one that sends a signal to break down (both fat and muscle).

In order for our body to hear that signal, however, we need to cut out outside noise (other stressors) and provide the means for our body to recover. During sleep is when our body gets to work repairing damaged tissue and making the hormones needed for us to thrive (both in fat loss and muscle growth) and food/nutrients is what our body uses as its building blocks to do that with.

So, as you can see, it’s pretty simple:

  1. Send the signal.
  2. Cut out outside noise so body can hear signal (through proper nutrition and recovery).
  3. Then reap the adaptation.

Let’s get more specific.


Now I am NOT talking about weight loss (this is easy: just go to the bathroom). What we really want is not to see the number on the scale move, but for the fat in the mirror to disappear, right?  So how do we that?

We have 3 variables to work with: Exercise, Sleep, and Nutrition.

A        +         ( B    +    C)     =   Fat Loss

We can improve all 3 for optimal fat loss, but we don’t have to.

Here are the options:


So before I was talking about the 2 forms of exercise: One that builds and one that destroys.

Well, cardio and aerobic activities are the destroyers. Biking, running, walking, and swimming all fall into this group.

They send a signal to our body that in order to survive and become better at these activities, we have to get smaller. To do this (and depending on the intensity and length of the activity) they will break down both fat AND MUSCLE for fuel.

Most aerobic activities are not body-friendly for this reason, but they can still be used correctly.

Here is a guideline:

  • The less intense they are, the more we can do them and the more likely that a large % of the breakdown will be fat. An excellent example of this is walking.
  • The more intense they are, the more we should limit them as they will target a lot of our muscle for fuel as well. An example of this is training for a marathon or running 5+ times a week.

Another side effect of high-intensity aerobics is that they give us cravings in an effort to replace lost fuel. So this is why running to lose weight will literally leave us running in circles (as we run long distances and then gorge on food).

A better alternative is walking every or every other day and doing 1-2 runs a week (if you must).


If you are sleeping less than 6 – 7 hrs a night on average, by increasing sleep to 8 – 9 hrs, your cravings will decrease, your energy will improve, and other aspects of health (such as digestion) will significantly improve.  This will all lead to fat loss.

Note: If sleep needs are not met, then exercise is out of the question.


Dieting is the typical approach to fat loss. This is hard to do right as far too many people feel that if they are going to diet than they got to do it hardcore. What’s hardcore?  Taking what you used to eat and dropping it by 500 or more calories a day.

This sucks because:

In chronic calorie deficits, our body is going to eat up fat AND MUSCLE for fuel, positive hormones are not going to be made in sufficient amounts, and our metabolism is going in the toilet. In short, life (and your energy) will suck.

A smarter approach is to just eat better foods. With this, we will be getting the right nutrients so cravings will naturally diminish. Fat loss will be slower but so will be muscle loss.


A big problem with losing weight is the chance that a large % of that could be muscle.

We care about this because it is muscle that gives us our shape and curves.

If we lose 50 lbs of total weight (25 of that is fat and 25 of that is muscle), we are just going to become a smaller version of ourselves. But if we can manage to make that 40 lbs of fat and 10 lbs of muscle, we are going to come out with a sleeker, trimmer, tonier look.

So how do we tell our body to lose more fat while keeping the muscle?

  • =>> Lift weights
  • =>> Sleep 8 hrs
  • =>> Eat Better (and slightly less) food

For the first one, we do not have to do anything extreme. Simply lifting weights 2x a week for a full body workout will be enough. Keep the reps relatively low (2-15) and keep the workout short (within 50 min) and the signal will be sent.

We also want to tell to our body to lose fat. For this to happen, we need to create a teeny-weeny caloric deficit. To create this, try focusing less on numbers and more on eating better food (of course) and going to bed slightly hungry.

Lastly, SLEEP. This is obviously crucial for any positive goal.

If you are still really skeptical of strength training while attempting to lose fat, try just training the areas that you wouldn’t mind enhancing. For most females, this means the booty.

That’s it.

Now some pro advice: If your goal is fat loss, then focus on fat loss only. Trying to build muscle or train for a marathon will be competing signals that will only confuse your body (and take you further away from fat loss).

There is a reason runners don’t look like body builders and body builders do not look like athletes.

That reason is signals.


[When you have lost all the fat you wanted to lose, it will be time for building muscle (shape and curves). Read Part 2 of this series to find out how.]



Are you sick of people telling you how to make these yet?

I sure as hell am.

Sick of bloggers discussing “smart goals”, gurus discussing “passion and motivation”, and especially sick of marketers proffering the idea that I can do it “quick and painless”.

So sick that I felt I had to write this (oh, the irony).

Now, this isn’t common knowledge (I wouldn’t waste your time like that) nor is this your typical strategy. I even had one commenter who called me a “masochist” (really? haha).

If you have a big hairy audacious goal this year, however, then this will be for you.

Below are the 3 steps to dominating goals (the Non-Gym way). Once you know what you want, here is what you do:

Click those links above to learn more or just go here.

Good luck.


extremely fast home workouts

“You may delay, but time will not.”
― Benjamin Franklin

I learned long ago that if I could shorten and condense my workouts, results would come that much faster (with a sweet bonus of having more time for other things).  And well, like you, I only have so much time to begin with. Forget spending 20 minutes driving to the gym, this workout needs to happen NOW!

This post is about the 3 insanely fast home workouts that have allowed me to abandon the gym entirely.

Each workout has a different focus and the great thing about them is that when you do have a surplus of time and energy, you can then combine them to create a super workout.

Consume it quickly, let it digest, than use it to fuel your action.

We’re busy, remember?

exhausted athlete How to Workout When You Dont Have Time



Protocol: Tabata

I said it once, I said it twice, and I’ll say it once more: We do not need to run to be in shape. We just need to do things that make breathing tough. Tabata is the most efficient way we can do this.

The basics:

  1. Exercise for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds.
  2. Do this 8 times.
  3. Try to accomplish between 8 – 14 reps per round.
  4. To achieve this number, pick an exercise and/or weight that allows you to max out around 20 – 30 reps.

In between rounds, write down your reps (at the end, you’ll have a number like “108″. Your goal for next workout is to beat this).

Tabata is best used to target slow twitch muscles like the legs. Squats, lunges, step ups, hip thrusts, and their variations all work equally well here as do many core exercises like planks. Upper body movements such as chinups and pushups, however, will be tough. If you go this route, make sure to pick 2 exercises and alternate them.

Rather then be distracted by a hand timer or even counting the time for this protocol, listen to special tabata music. I am so passionate about this that I made my own track here.

Modification: Don’t think you need to confine to the rules in order for this to be effective. If you are just starting out, try a half tabata (2 minutes). If you are more advanced, try a super tabata (30 seconds on / 10 seconds off). If you have flat gone off your rocker, try just doing something for 4 minutes total (flutter kicks from hell).

gymnast body How to Workout When You Dont Have Time


{ 10 – 20 MINUTES }

Protocol: EDT

Resistance training, by itself, doesn’t build muscle. No, we thank Progressive Overload for this. Coming back week-after-week and trying to do more volume (reps x sets x weight) is what sends the signal to our body to continually “tear down and build up“. Escalating Density Training, or EDT for short, is a program designed just for that. Termed “escalating” because each week you attempt to increase the amount of work you can do.

The basics:

  1. Pick 2 exercises (preferably antagonistic).
  2. Do them back-to-back (i.e. a superset).
  3. Do 5 reps per set of both (of your 10 – 15  rep max).
  4. Do as many sets as you can in the designated time (either 10, 15, or 20 minutes).

So I set my time variable (15 minutes) and I have my exercises (chinups and pushups) of which I must do 5 reps each. I go back and forth, resting just enough so that I am able to complete the reps. When I start pooping out (and getting weaker), I’ll drop the reps to 4. Then 3.  Or I’ll modify them to be made a little easier. At the end of 15 minutes, I’ll have a number (like 24 total sets). When I do this workout next week, I must beat this if I want to progress. Pretty simple, right?

The best exercises for this tend to be isolated upper body movements. If you have a kettlebell lieing around or heck, even a milk jug, try using this to do curls, tricep extensions, straight arm pullovers, overhead press, rows, and a whole bunch of different pushes and pulls.

It should be said that this doesn’t have to be used for a muscle building program. In the end, it comes down to calories. If you are not eating enough (or purposely dieting), than there just won’t be enough materials left to build the house back up again.

Modification: No one said the rep numbers had to be uniform. Many times, for my push-pull workout, I’ll do 5 reps for chinup and 15 for pushup. It’s just how it works out (aka I am too lazy to make my pushup harder).

china lifter How to Workout When You Dont Have Time


{ 10 – 20 MINUTES }

Protocol: Singles

Becoming stronger without a gym is tough. Unless you are a bonafide gymnast or have access to some tonnage at home like I do, it can be almost impossible to find enough resistance to get your Milo on.

  • So stop #1: Realize that you need some weight at home (ez bars and weights, kettelbells, and weighted vests all work well here and are easy to store).
  • Stop #2: Realize that strength is a skill. And skills, like juggling or the ability to moonwalk, are largely based on how well our brain neurons talk to each other. The faster they communicate, the faster (or skillful) we will be.

Doing singles (that’s 1 rep), this is the best way we work on this skill of strength. There is a misconception, however, that this 1 rep has to be a “bawlz out” effort. Not only can this be dangerous (at least to your kitchen floor), but it only has to be heavy enough…

The basics:

  1. Pick one big [hard] exercise.
  2. Use anywhere from 70 – 85% of your 1rm for weight.
  3. Complete 1 rep on the minute for 10 – 20 minutes.

So I have 165 lb on the bar for overhead press (max is 190+). I do one rep and I’ll rest about 45 seconds before I approach the bar again. Once I do, I’ll make sure I have the proper set up and I prepare myself to do another press (FYI: The aim here is “perfect practice” ). Boom! I set it back down and I either do a full rest or I choose to do a little mobility work in-between. 10, 15, or 20 reps later and I am done.

This is a deceptively easy way to get strong. Through this method, I can credit most of my strength gains. Overhead pressing, for certain, has benefitted the most (youtube clip).

Best exercises for this include full body movements: Overhead or bench press, front squat, deadlift, ab rollout (srsly), chinups, pushups, and variations.

Women wanting to do a real pushup and pullup for the first time will want to try this out (don’t worry, the volume is so low that “getting bulky” is not an issue) as will men wishing to take these exercises to the next level (muscles ups and handstand pushups).

Modification: I don’t really have one here. Find something that is hard and do it.

super workout3 How to Workout When You Dont Have Time


Putting this all together

First, the principles:

  • Always start with stimulating activities (in our case, the strength workout).
  • Always end with draining activities (conditioning).
  • If you have more time and energy, throw some volume in the middle (the muscle building workout).

Next, putting them into practice for a home workout:

  1. A) Ab Rollout 15 x 1 reps
    >> rest 2 -3 minutes
    B1) Pushup x 10 (EDT)
    B2) Chinup x 5
    >> rest 2 – 3 minutes
    C) Squats ( Tabata)

Note: Based off the protocols I listed above, this workout should not take longer than 50 minutes (including warmup and coffee consumption).

Now, this is when I often hear: “Hey, I can’t do that stuff!”.  Sure you can. If you do not have a ab roller, do hand walk-outs like this. If the regular pushup is too hard, try this. And if you do not have a chinup bar, go to the park and do them like this.

When there is a will, there is a WAG.




There is power in the ability to see the trees and the forest at the same time.

Archers, for example, aim slightly off the target to hit the middle (that’s the paradox).

They do this not only because the arrow bends (and throws the trajectory off slightly), but because over-focusing causes less accuracy.

When aiming for our targets, fat loss or mass gain, it’s no different. Overfocus here causes us to zoom in on only a couple of variables (be that calories or some certain “rule”) while neglecting the rest. Often, it is our health that pays the biggest price. Like I talked about in Why Chasing 6 Pack Abs May Make You Fatter, once our health goes, so does our results.


I’ve had clients lose twenty-to-thirty pounds without giving them a diet just like I, myself, have gained muscle without focusing on muscle growth.

The key is to aim slightly off to the side.

  • Instead of dieting and counting calories, eat more foods (greens, fiber) that cause you to naturally eat less.
  • Instead of adding more arm and chest exercises to build your upper body, do hormone-stimulating exercises like squats and deadlifts.
  • Instead of logging 5 hours a week on the treadmill, sleep more.

The point is that THIS is all related.

If you focus on changing one variable, you risk changing them all. If you do not know which variables these are, then failure is likely.


So you want to know how often you should be hitting the gym if you want to reach your fat loss goal?

The answer is way less than you think.

We live in a society, however, that thinks that more is better. We think if we can just get to the gym 6 times a week, then we will automatically win. If we can just log more miles or cut more calories, the prize will be ours.

This type of thinking will only take us down a road of frustration.

The reality (and slighty less revelatory) is that only better is better. Quality is of the highest quality so to speak. This is true for our 3 big goals: fat loss, mass gain, and performance enhancement.

Can we talk about this?


If you read me for a while now, you know I don’t like putting people in boxes and I certainly don’t like stating what we can and can’t do (because there are just too many crazy, talented people out there who will be the exceptions to my advice).

So I am not going tell you how often you should workout.

Instead, I am going to give you 2 rules.


This is the quality I was speaking of. We are not just showing up to show up, but showing up to perform BETTER. Now better can mean many things so we first have to figure out the signal that we are trying to send and then work on making that signal better.

In general –

  • If our goal is fat loss, we want to mix low intensity exercise (like walking) with high metabolic work (like lifting weights).
  • If it is muscle growth, we need to do more volume consistently.
  • If it is performance, we need to get better at what we want to get better (sometimes not so obvious for people).

When our body adapts (ie when we see progress), so does the signal. So that means we have to constantly keep going back to the drawing board to make that signal stronger and clearer. The people you see coming back to the gym year after year who seemingly don’t progress? They failed to change their signals.

If we are unable to send the signal, than our recovery is probably lacking.


You can train all you want, but if you are not allowing the time and the materials for the proper adaption (discussed here and here), then you will not see squat for an adaptation.

The thing is, most exercise is stressful. If you  are already living a stressful live (from lack of sleep, bad food, allergies, emotional bullshit, etc.) than adding MORE STRESS will not be in your favor. Stress on top of stress without a means to recover and become stronger equals becoming fat(ter). For real. We can thank cortisol for that.

In my experience, people add way too much unnecessary stress through the way they exercise.

They don’t go hard but they don’t do light exercise either (which can be restorative). Instead, they dance right in the middle in a place I call “No Man’s Land”.

Most of the exercise people do requires only moderate (mediocre?) intensity. This is things like distance running, spin class, and other aerobics. When they do lift, they tend to leave a lot of effort on the table.

Now this is great for beginners and people just getting into this, but after a while the signal will just not be strong enough.
At the far left of the graph will be a load of low-intensity exercises. This includes walking, skating, yoga, mobility, hiking, and other things that we can do while keeping a conversation.

We skip the middle (because the signal sucks) and go straight for the goodies at the far right. The goodies is lifting weight (either external or body) and doing things in a faster, heavier, tensor manner.

The far right? This is hard. This is stuff that invites our mind to tell us why we shouldn’t or can’t do it (AND this is exactly why we must). This is the signal we need.



“How often should I workout?!”

Start with twice a week and go from there. Most people will only be able to handle two hard workouts a week. Very few will be able to do 3. Even fewer 4.

Now the light stuff you can do everyday. In fact, I urge you to do this everyday. Walk to work or to the grocery store. As far as keeping fat off or improving wellness, this habit will make the biggest difference.

Now to tie up some loose ends:

  • Everyone should exercise at least once a week. There are no exceptions to this. If you are in pain and/or think you’re too old, give machines a try
  • Dudes should work out more than dudettes. Testosterone exists for a reason. If you do not use it, you’ll lose it.
  • Runners will think they need to spend a lot of time in “No Mans land ”. While this may be true of professionals, it is not so for amateurs. You can get better by doing light and intense sessions only (will speak on this soon).
  • If your goal is strictly health and longevity, the max you probably want to train will be twice a week. The reasoning being, the less training, the less “wear and tear“ we accrue.


I feel good about this.

Thanks for reading.


why 6 pack abs will make you fatter

Fitness is the easy part.

Not sacrificing your health in the process — that’s harder.

It’s often this sacrifice that makes many of the goals we set unsustainable and short-lived (such as trying to get unnaturally lean and/or vigorous “running everyday” type training).

When we go against our health and own well-being by chasing crazy ideals (often set by the media), we pay the price.

The thing is, though, no one is going to tell us to stop chasing 6 pack abs or world records in Crossfit (and no one should). What we should be talking, however, is all the dangerous roads that people take to achieve those end outcomes.

What we should be discussing is….


“For everything you have lost, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

There are no shortcuts in life and this especially true for our own health and fitness.

We like to think there is a pill we can take or that we if do an extreme 4, 8, or 12 week diet & exercise program that we can achieve our super hero body, but it just doesn’t work like that.

Change – both mentally and physically – is slow.

We know that, but we don’t really want to acknowledge it.

When the pills and the diets and the extreme workouts do manage to work, it is short-lived. Short-lived because our metabolism is wrecked and our hormones are shot and the overall stress load we have put ourselves is just too much to be able to recover from.

Those images you see of models in magazines and even body builders at the day of their show, that’s not real. They are water depleted, mega-tanned, pumped up, and only a couple days away from re-gaining back multiple pounds.

This is just how it is: Easy come, easy go.

Sure, there are body builders, models, and other freaky deeky athletes that do it right. For them, it is real and that’s how they look and perform almost all the time.

This elite group shares one common thread: Change slowly.

For them, there are no start-and-stop diets ( just a diet that they continually stick with). And
for them, there is no sudden burst of activity followed by months of Seinfeld on the couch (just a way of moving that they enjoy and fits in with their lifestyle).

Progress is slow but so is regress. [Note: And when regress is slow, you can do more normal human stuff like eat ice cream and not have to worry about it.]

I can honestly say I am now apart of this group, however, it was not always like this.

Truth is, Cara and I have done the whole “get fit quick” scheme.

The results? We got fit but it didn’t stick.

There is a reason we are not this lean anymore.

There is a reason we are not this lean anymore.

Not only didn’t it stick, but we both had to work smarter afterwards to regain the health we lost.

You see, when you are mentally fuzzy and your libido is non-existent and your constantly constipated and your even neurotic about every little calorie you consume, that’s what it means to lose health.

And that’s what many of us sacrifice in an attempt to get 6 pack abs or any other goal that is deemed extreme.

Now, I am not saying that you cannot get (and keep) a 6 pack. I’m just saying your time-frame and the amount of work you think will be involved is unrealistic.

Truth is, it will not be quick. Nor will it be easy. And if it is either of those, it will not be sustainable.

Same goes for our athletic performance (e.g going from the couch to training 5 times a week is recipe for pain and injury).


K. Good. Getting back on track.

I started this post with the idea I was going to answer this question: “Realistically, how fit should we be?”

This late in the ballgame, I am still unsure.

What I am sure about, however, is this:

  1. Your quest for fitness shouldn’t come at the sacrifice of your health.
  2. If you commit to slow change, you could prevent the above from happening.
  3. If your persist onward towards fast, radical change, you’ll get burned out (and probably end up fatter than before).

In the end, the body always beats the mind.

Don’t put things on it that it can’t handle or doesn’t want.

We never win.


Most people do not sleep enough (shocking, right?).

While I think this mostly has to do with priorities, there are still a lot of people who do not know why this could be sabotaging their goals.

Rather than  jump into the science of it or provide a million links for “proof” (go test it yourself), I am just going to say this:

Before going on a diet or starting an exercise routine or creating any new habit for that matter, we should focus on getting enough sleep first.

Here is a post to help you with that.


The Basics

Your sleeping environment should be:

  • A little cold
  • Dark (as can be).
  • Floor or mattress, neither not too soft or too hard.
  • And maybe some white noise (I prefer a fan).

The Activities

1. The Brain Dump

We spend all day – whether conscious or not – taking in information and different stimuli. This information then has sex with our prior knowledge which produces little babies called thoughts, ideas, and plans. If we do not have a crib for these babies (which are very stimulating stuff), they will keep us up at night. Notebooks, whiteboards, and tape recorders all work as cribs.

2. Choose Boring Things

Makes sense, right? Here is what works for me:


I cannot watch The Walking Dead right before bedtime. No way, no how. It’s just as powerful as a cup of coffee. What does work  (and I actually do like) is Ancient Aliens or Through the Wormhole:


Magazines on various topics or fiction books.


Light stuff such a Chillstep, classical, meditative, and Pink Floyd.

The Drugs

Caffeine, nicotine, and other stimulants generally have a half-life of 4 – 8 hours. So that means if you have a cup of coffee at 4 pm, then half that amount is still in your system around midnight. Think this will affect your sleep? You’re right.

So, if your sleep is a bit off, try having a cut-off  time for stimulants (mine is 1 pm).

Now if your sleep is still wack, it could be that emotional stress is just too high. If you are having trouble changing your perception of it, you may need to look towards relaxants.

My favorite of these is ZMA. One of it’s chief ingredients, magnesium, is nature’s valium (ie, it helps us cope with stress). Other ones that work well are L-theanine (found in tea), 5-htp (by raising serotonin), and valerian root.

If you really, really cannot sleep, you may want to give melatonin a shot. While long-term use is not recommended, it may help coax your body into developing a better habit.

[ For more on these, refer to #6 in “Supplements: Why, What, When, and How”]

The Others

Here are some more things that may help:

  • Early morning sunlight (to raise serotonin levels)
  • Sex (for guys at least)
  • Warm baths
  • Moving exercise to the mornings
  • Completely exhausting yourself
  • Blue Blocker sunglasses after sundown
  • Using lavender oil (place some behind the ears)
  • Trying different food combinations

The Point

==> Sleep is the game changer.

This is the most important part of the health and fitness game.

Without it, eating nutritious foods will become that much harder. So will the act of adopting a positive mindset. And exercise? Good luck trying to see gains when you take away the recovery time.

Only a very small % of the population ( <5 ) will be actually able to function optimally off 6 hours or less of sleep a night.

Are you one of them? You will have to see what it feels like to get 8 – 9 hrs a night first.