Since my piece aka rant on the biggest loser got such an overwhelmingly positive response, I decided that it wouldn't be fair just to a Monday morning quarterback.
So, instead of just criticizing I will offer my completely useless .02 as to how to tackle bad eating/lifestyle habits.

What we are seeing in America is a strange paradox: more and more healthy or diet foods are coming onto the market, yet the nations waist line keeps expanding. WTF?
One explanation is the dieters paradox, which describes a condition whereby the dieters simply focuses on details over what really matters aka calories.
Case in point: the low fat foods of the 80s. People are much more inclined to overeat a "fat free" food since they perceive it as healthy. Gummy bears are fat free....hmmm gummy bears.
So that is lesson number one; calories matter, matter much more than whatever exotic diet scheme you might have deiced to follow.
And yet, most people have a pretty good idea as to what they should do and they still fail. Why?
One reason is that people are horrible at estimating how many calories they ate. Quick poll: what did you have for lunch two days ago?
See. So on overage, people underestimating the calories they consume by 50%, while they overestimating the calories burned by 50%. Therefore, failure to lose weight is pre-programmed.
Solution: the dreaded food log. But since it is 2013, we can use one of the many good apps out there.
But even then, most dieters struggle with losing weight despite having the knowledge and the the tools. Why? It comes down to behavioral issues.
Humans are complicated animals, we do not like change. However, dieting often includes a complete lifestyle change which can be overwhelming, therefore I recommend to break it down into stages.
Phase 1
Eliminate one bad habit a week. Example : replace french fries with baked fries.
Week two: replace candy bars with quest bars. After six weeks, you should have a decent base to start a workout program. Ideally, you are only eating single ingredient foods by then.
Phase 2:
Start working out with 2x30 minutes per week, a simple full body workout will do the trick. After 4 weeks, you might bump it up to three times per week. You might have noticed that I put the eating part before working out, the reason being that most people try to out-exercise a poor diet. Impossible.
Phase 3:
Check your environment. This might be the toughest part, but if your inner circle isn't supportive of your weight loss endeavor, do they really have your best interest at hand? Changes might be needed.
So to conclude, it is important to understand that while weight loss is mainly calories in vs calories out, psychological factors  do play a critical role as well. if you happen to fall off the wagon ( as we all do), do not beat yourself up. Nobody can time travel yet, )maybe the North Koreans but I am not sure about that), so there is no point in self flagellation about past meals. Simply go back to your diet, you will be just fine.
Till next time

Doing what I do, a lot of people ask me about what I think about the above TV show.
The last time this occurred was during my lecture at NYU. I usually then go on a 45 minute rant, which leaves people intimidated and confused. So, after some calming breathing exercises, I will try to break down my take on TBL in a somewhat more organized manner.
The premise of TBL sounds great, after all we shall help clinically obese people making a positive life change. Fantastic, let's take a look as to what really occurs.
A bunch of inactive and overweight contestants are carted off to a remote location, where they are subject to a rigorous diet and exercise program in order to win 250k $ . After several weeks hundreds of pounds are lost, people are ecstatic and have found eternal happiness. So what is not to like?
To be bold: TBL is a scam. There, I said it.
Problem 1: The trainers on TBL are less than qualified to oversee a training program (when in doubt, just watch Jilian Micheals kettle bell videos). Anna Kournikowa might be fun to look at , but she has zero background as a coach or nutritionist.
A weight loss program (involving humans, mind you) should not be misused as a career relaunch for C-list celebrities.

Problem 2: The environment is artificial, the contestants work out 4 hours a day while being on a very restrictive diet. It is essentially a POW camp. How is that sustainable once they are back in their day jobs?

Problem 3: Almost all of the contestants gain the weight back, since they lost it in an unsustainable way. In short: the time frame is too short to lose that much weight. Therefore, the metabolism gets destroyed (thyroid shut down) due to overdieting, mostly muscle is lost, all this setting the stage for a monster rebound.
We shall do the math on this one: Very often, constants lose up to 15 lbs a week. If we were to assume that all of this is all body fat, the contestant would need to rack up a caloric deficit of 60 000 calories per week or 8 700 calories per day. Now, assuming that the basic metabolic rate of most people is around 1500-2000 calories, one can conclude that there is no way to burn that many calories.
The answer: It was mainly muscle mass that was lost. Sad.

Problem 4: The show is dehumanizing. Obese people have often suffered a traumatic experience earlier in their lives and should receive the following:
1. proper therapy or counseling to find out what is triggering their food addiction.
2. coaching by people who actually do this for a living (maybe even have a certification!) and care for their clients, not just for a pay check and internet fame.
3. medical supervision by qualified individuals, who administer  blood work  in order to determine hormonal imbalances and treat those if needed.
They should NOT be paraded around like circus animals.

Problem 5: TBL makes fitness looks like a chore, like something unattainable where you have to commit 4 or more hours a day of training and only get to eat salad. Seeing this turns people off from working out, thereby laying the ground work for further unhappiness.
In order to be successful in achieving fitness, one has to take a more holistic approach and not just simply focus on pounds of lard lost.
Fitness is a beautiful and rewarding life style, and should not be milked for ratings. If you want to do a TV show on fitness, how about a myth busting show that is actually informative?
Rant end.


When looking around in Hollywood and seeing all those beautiful and fit people, diets and exercise almost naturally come to mind. So it is no surprise that I will take on one of the  most popular Hollywood diets, namely the hCG diet.

This diet has been very popular as of lately, lots of celebrities have dropped substantial weight while on it.
What is it?
It consists of daily injections of hCG ( a fertility hormone) and not much else. Your daily food consumption would be be an apple and a chicken breast, which comes to about 500 calories a day. Weight loss can be rather dramatic, which is to be expected since your calories are around starvation levels. So, great let's follow this one? 
Not so fast, I actually consider this diet outright dangerous. First off all, injecting any type of hormone shouldn't be taken lightly (aside from the fact that this is a medical grey area, to say the least.) Secondly, hCG does not have any proven fat-burning properties, so you are taking on the side effects without any real benefits.
Lastly, dropping your calories to 500 a day will almost certainly ensure metabolic shutdown which then sets you up for the dreaded yo-yo effect once you start eating regular again. If you can reasonably foresee yourself living of a chicken breast and an apple a day til the end of times, this would not apply of course.
So the hCG diet gets zero stars from me and should be avoided at all costs, no matter what celebrity X tells you.
You will be much better off following a sensitive eating plan like the Paleo diet and do something radical, like exercising!

With the Superbowl upon us, the media feels that we need to be entertained at all costs, even if that means to do absolutely no research anymore.
Case in point: the so-called deer antler spray scandal, supposedly involving Ray Lewis and other well-known athletes.
What is the scoop? According to several news outlets, these athletes used deer antler spray (yes, you heard that right) in order to obtain a dose of igf-1 and therefore perform better. Another PED story in professional sports, so it must be true, right?
After all it was on TV and has Homer Simpson said :TV never lies"
Let's take a closer look at all this. First off, what is igf-1 or insulin like growth factor? In short, it is a very powerful peptide hormone, consisting of a long string of amino acids.
In rats, the substance has shown to increase muscle mass (even cause hyperplasia i e the creation of new muscle cells) and to decrease adipose tissue or body fat.
But before you go out and start chewing on some random deer in order to get huge and ripped like our bushy-tailed friend in the picture, consider this: most humans do not have any rats in their family tree (what you think of your cousin has no bearing here for the moment). So what works in animals doesn't have to work for humans.
Furthermore, IGF-1 is  a very fragile substance that can not be dropped or shaken without losing its potency. It also needs to stay stored in the fridge. I highly doubt that the makers of deer antler spray follow these guidelines.
Lastly, and most importantly, IGF-1 only works via intramuscular injection, so a spray or topical cream are just a waste of money.
ESPN and others could have found all this out within a click of the mouse, but I guess the story was to tempting.
There you have it, another myth busted.
Go Ravens

I am currently writing on a variety of topics on the Straight to the Bar and Muscle & Strength websites. Follow my articles!
Even though this is more a strength orientated website, most athletes still do some form of cardio and, lets face it, most of us want to look good. So fat loss is a topic worth covering.

For ages, people have gotten up at ungodly hours and performed cardio on an empty stomach since the body then has no other choice but to burn fat. It sounds great, but is it true? Aside from the fact, that I do not think cardio is necessary to get lean (there, I said it), lets have a closer look at cardio in a fastened state.

In short, no. For the long answer read on.

While it is true that the body will use mainly fatty acids as an energy source when performing any exercise on an empty stomach, this doesn't necessarily mean that you will lose more body fat. How so?
In the end, it is the overall calories that are being burned that matter. So while someone who does cardio in the am might use up more fatty acids than someone who does cardio in the pm, they still burn the same amount of calories. Now, if we assume a caloric deficit they will both lose weight.

I personally have several issues with doing cardio in a fasted state. First of, there is a drop in performance so the overall amount of calories being burned is lower than if the athlete had consumed some food beforehand.

Secondly, there is muscle loss. Foods (glycogen and amino acid) are anti-catabolic, hence they help prevent muscle loss during exercise. If muscle is lost, that means your metabolism will slow down, hence you will have to diet stricter to achieve the same results. now to me, muscle loss is one of the worst things that can happen. As a natural athlete, you are bound to lose some muscle during a diet as is (if everything goes well , you will lose 1 lbs of muscle for every 3 lbs of fat), but you shouldn't try to create a situation where you are endangering your precious muscle tissue.

If you feel you should separate from cardio from weight training, at least have some BCAAs beforehand to avoid catabolism. Otherwise, do it after you hit the weights, your glycogen stores will be then be empty and fatty acids are used for energy.

'Til next time

Forbes Magazine featured my book in the health section, a not-to-be-missed read!

Today's subject seems rather mundane..I mean shrugs, really? You grab the heaviest dumbbells you can find and perform short , jerky motions right?
yes, that is pretty much how shrugs are done in every gym I ever set foot in. Its a pretty cool exercise, you get to move 5 plates on the barbell, make  a lot of noise, enforce your tough guy image and, best of all  you cant really mess it up. Or at  least that's what people believe.
First of all, when people do shrugs they tend to think only about the small area that's actually visible toward the ears ( unless you are Johnny Jackson, than that part is huge). But if you be so inclined and look at the graph, you will notice that the traps are quite big and cover a large part of your back.
So you must break the training down into upper and lower traps to get a full development. Regular shrugs, shrugs with chest support on a bench and reverse shrugs at the cable pull down would be a good combination.
Secondly, the traps elevate and lover the shoulder blades so rolling the shoulders back and forth is not a good idea. Get a feeling for moving your shoulder blades without engaging the arms.
Thirdly, weight is secondary, feeling the muscle comes first. Too many guys perform shrugs like they are having some sort of epileptic seizure in order to move a large amount of weight. Again, focus on the squeeze and the stretch.
Whats the payoff for well developed traps?
If you are a football player, wrestler or boxer it will save you from spinal injuries. As a bodybuilder or regular weightlifter, traps are crucial for shoulder health.
So there you have it, the rundown of an exercise everyone thinks they know and hardly anyone does it right.


Musclemania NY


Finally, I get to post an update regarding my last show, which was the Musclemania NY, conviently held in AStoria. After a grueling 16 week prep, I was a very lean ( and dehydrated 210 lbs) which was good enough to win the heavyweight class. For teh overall, I was edged out by a formidable ligth-heavy weight competitior, you can see for yourself via the links. I want to thank everyone who s