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5 Mistakes that Will Derail Your Fat Loss Efforts

As most who read this site know, I spent this past weekend in Atlanta, celebrating a family wedding. Between dancing my face off and singing “Im On a Boat” like T-Pain), fitness conversations came up.

The hot topic? Fat loss, and more specifically, how damn hard it is for most people.

Despite crushing my share of brisket and other Southern delicacies, one overwhelming factor stands out above all the others: Dietary consistency. 

Truth: The Table below will derail your fat loss efforts. 5 Mistakes that Will Derail Your Fat Loss Efforts
Truth: The Table below will derail your fat loss efforts.

Oh, and Weekends count too.

You can’t be the dude crushing a 6-pack for every NFL game, eat chicken wings, and maximize your fat loss efforts. If you’re not consistently in a negative caloric balance, or eating less than you expend, you won’t lose body fat.

With Fat Loss on my mind, I have an excellent guest from coach Nick Smoot, whom I had the privilege to meet and hang out with at this past year’s Fitness Summit.



5 Mistakes that Will Derail Your Fat Loss Efforts by Nick Smoot

If you’re like most people, you’ve attempted to lose body fat. And you probably made some mistakes along the way.

I certainly have. 

The mistakes can prevent you from reaching your ideal physique. Hey, it happens. But making mistakes can actually be a good thing.

Trial and error is the foundation that this whole “fitness” thing is built upon.

If you’re not making mistakes, learning from those mistakes, and then using what you’ve learned to propel you to a higher level of success, you’re not doing things correctly.

Today’s article, focusses on the top five mistakes I’ve seen — and how to avoid them.

1. You Try to Lose Body Fat Before You’re Actually Ready to Lose Body Fat.

Sounds a little “out there,” I know. But the truth of the matter is this:

A lot of people *say* they want to lose body fat when in reality what they really want is something completely different (or at the very least, they want something else more).

And, this comes down to values.

Some people value getting bigger and stronger.

Some people value getting faster or more athletic.

Other people value drinking and partying it out with their friends.

And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. Whatever floats your boat.

The problem arises when what someone *thinks* they value (i.e. fat loss), and what they actually value (something else), don’t line up. Why?

Because values drive motivation.

They also drive habits.

And if you’re not motivated to lose body fat – or you have habits set up that are aligned with a different goal – your fat loss journey will be infinitely harder.

What to do instead: Be honest with yourself. Assess whether or not losing body fat is what you truly value (right now). If it is, go after at. If it’s not, chase what you currently value until fat loss moves up on the priority list.


  1. You Don’t Build a Foundation of Healthy Habits.

A lot of people think that the key to dropping body fat is having an extreme amount of willpower.

That’s not true.

In fact, I’d argue that most people who’ve achieved incredible physiques have will power no better than yours.

It’s not willpower that separates those that are successful at losing body fat, and those that aren’t.

It’s their habits.

It’s the stuff they do day in and day out that they DON’T have to think about.


Because willpower is a limited resource, and eventually it’ll burn out.

A lot of people think too much.

All that thinking leads to excess stress.

And too much stress – if not controlled and allowed to accumulate for a prolonged period of time – leads to giving up.

What to do instead: Before you start worrying about the smaller details of your fat loss plan, build a foundation of healthy habits. There are ton of habits you can choose from, but some simple ones to get you started are as follows:

  • Eat a protein source with each meal.
  • Don’t drink your calories.
  • Fill up 1/3 of your plate with veggies.
  • Drink a glass or two of water with each meal.
  • Put the fork down in between bites.
  • Chew slower.
  • Choose whole, nutritious foods over processed, less nutritious foods 80% of the time.
  • Eat with Chopsticks.
  • If you think you want to dessert after dinner, wait 30 minutes and then re-evaluate if you still want it.
  • Don’t bring “junk food” in to the house.

3. You Don’t Train.

 Training in the weight room isn’t a necessity. Bbut not doing so will increase the difficulty of your fat loss efforts tenfold.


Because training helps you gain – and maintain – muscle mass.

Muscle mass is extremely metabolically active (i.e. it requires a lot of energy to maintain).

Carrying around more metabolically active tissue leads to an increase in metabolism, and the ability to diet on a higher food intake. Bot are extremely important.

Muscle mass is the foundation of your physique. No, scratch that, it IS your physique.

Fat loss is already difficult, time consuming, and painful.

The last thing you want to do is diet for six months, drop a bunch of body fat, and then wind up looking “skinny fat” because you don’t have enough muscle mass to fill out your physique

What to do instead: Train at  least 2-3 times per week. Again, it’s not a necessity. But strength training is extremely beneficial, and probably the only activity on this planet that can dramatically change your physique.


  1. You Don’t Pay Attention to Calories.

 “You can’t out-train a bad diet.” I’m sure you’ve heard that cliché before. But tis true. ‘You can’t train your butt off in the weight room . It’s important, but only one piece of the puzzle.  You can’t ignore what you’re doing in the kitchen and expect to lose body fat.

Why? Because the energy equation matters.

If you take in more energy than you’re burning on a daily basis, you’re going to gain weight.

And if you burn more energy than you’re taking in on a daily basis, you’re going to lose weight.

People have a knack for rewarding an intense workout with extra food. That’s not to say training and consuming a bunch of nutrients isn’t important. It definitely is, and all three variables go hand in hand. But, when it comes to losing body fat, calories do – and always will – reign supreme. Never forget that.

What to do instead: Track your calories. Or at the very least, try to be consistent with the type and amount of food you’re eating on a daily basis. If you don’t measure your food intake (in some fashion), you can’t adjust it. And if you’re not making adjustments to keep yourself in a caloric deficit, you’re not going to make any progress.

  1. You Don’t Eat Enough Protein.

I remember someone telling me awhile back that when they eat meat, they think of it as “stealing that animal’s muscle and putting on themselves.”

Kind of a sick – yet cool – way to look at things. But the importance of eating protein cannot be overstated.

Protein is the most essential nutrient when it comes to losing body fat.

Carbs and fats are important too (balance is key), but protein is number one on the priority list because:

  • It helps you maintain muscle mass while you’re in a caloric deficit.
  • It keeps you full (it’s the most satiating macronutrient).

Being hungry all the time? That sucks too. Not only is it wickedly uncomfortable, but it makes your ability to withstand overeating virtually non-existent.

You can avoid all of this by eating a good amount of protein.

Of course, some people manage to lose body fat and develop a nice physique WITHOUT eating a lot of protein (barely any). But, those people are rare. And their quest to lose body fat was probably a lot harder.

What to do instead: Eat protein. If you track macros, aim for between .8 and 1.5g per pound of body weight (1g per pound of body weight makes things simple). If you don’t track macros, try to get in a protein source with each meal (the size of your palm or two palm-fulls).

Wrapping Up

Making mistakes is part of the fitness process (a valuable part), but it’d be kinda silly if we all kept making the same ones.

Don’t try to lose body fat until it’s something you currently value.

Don’t rely solely on willpower.

Don’t neglect strength training.

Don’t forget about calories.

And don’t eat a bunch of carbs and fats without eating an adequate amount of protein.

You avoid these mistakes, and you’ll be 80% of the way towards reaching your fat loss goals.


Author Bio:

Nick Smoot is a strength coach and nutrition consultant out of Newport News, VA. He got his start in the fitness industry back in 2012, and since then he’s spent countless hours helping clients become the best versions of themselves possible. In his free time, he enjoys lifting heavy things, eating, writing, traveling, nerding out on Harry Potter, and eating.

Visit Nick’s blog here, or feel free to connect with him on Facebook or Instagram.

Lights, Camera…Water Manipulation

OMG- I just completed an awesome workout session of hang cleans, bench presses, snatch grip deadlifts. Apparently, that combo of compound exercises kicks your ass. After mustering the energy to waddle to my laptop I received an email from readers of my recent guest post on Unleash Your Alpha.

And I completely forgot to share it with you! I know some of you are thinking: ” Eric, we don’t need to see your guest posts or half-naked pictures, what’s the deal?”

I get it, but this article dives into something that’s often brushed under the radar in movies, advertisements, and photoshoots—Water Manipulation. Check it out and drop me or Mike Campbell, head of Unleash your Alpha a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

People go out of there way to look good naked. Lift heavy weights, high intensity cardio, and healthy diets all in effort to look shredded like Brad Pitt in Fight Club.

But there’s an elephant in the room: Actors and models don’t walk around that shredded.

Rather, it takes some special technical planning and flawless discipline. Plus lots of water and pancakes. Yup. Pancakes. Water manipulation is a tricky deal.

With the help of Mike Campbell I’m going to show you how exactly how to do it using my experience preparing for my virginal photo shoot.
Are you ready?

>> Lights, Camera…Water Manipulation Continue Reading<<

Lights, Camera...Body Manipulation

photo credit: Runs With Scissors via photopin cc

Strong. Shredded. Athletic.


Is Calorie Counting Practical?

Calorie Counting

Wednesday afternoon, 2:30 P.M. The bag of almonds is beside you as you send a trade request to your friend for fantasy football. You take a handful, then another, and then another. You bypass ESPN on your browser and click on your calorie counter. After all, you’ve tracked your diet for the last 3 months. You even saw great progress in the first six weeks and now you’re hooked.

Problem is, your diet has stalled.

You haplessly continue on, guessing at your portion sizes and recalling what you ate the last few days. Clicking, scanning and entering information that has a pretty solid chance at being incorrect. You’ve been traveling for work and it’s impossible to measure out food when it’s being served to you at a steakhouse…unless you’re one of those dudes who carries a food scale into restaurants. 

As well as things were working before, calorie counting has become a burden. It’s become impractical for your busy life and you are no longer losing fat like you’d hoped. 

All dietary changes will create some level of stress, and some tough decisions. Without a struggle, there is no progress. Changing the way you eat goes much further than simply food in food out; there is a huge emotional component of eating, as well as hunger and appetite signals.

In the short term, anyone can monotonously, robotically enter calories and macronutrients into a computer system.  But how many can do it long term?

Few, very few. Just ask around, you will find tons of people who “used to” count their calories. They quit, gave up, and found it impractical. Now, they continue to struggle with their dietary behaviors and never developed control without thinking of food in numbers.

Calorie Counting isn’t that accurate.

Because of incorrect labeling, laboratory errors, and differences in food quality and preparation, calorie counts recorded on food labels and websites – even those within the USDA’s nutrient databases – can be off by as much as 25%.

For example, this study observed bagels on patients food records. The textbook weight of a bagel is 65 g; however, the bagels brought in by patients weighed between 98g-128g. That’s nearly twice the size of the textbook weight and up to a 550+kcal difference (Heymsfield, Darby, Muhlheim, Gallagher, Wolper & Allison, 1995). 

Calorie Counting

Bottom line

Even if you’re the world’s best calorie counter, your calculations are off. Even the best data is wildly inconsistent due to factors such as growing conditions, seed quality (if a seed), and how your food is prepared. Now, this isn’t to say calorie counting is completely pointless. In fact, calorie counting is a great way to build awareness into your food choices and a great starting point in a fat loss diet.

But long term macro tracking is useless for most people. It’s inaccurate. It’s a major stress point. And for most folks, it adds unnecessary complexity and potentially unhealthy relationships with food.

Now, there are three circumstances in which I recommend counting calories. 

  1. To start a diet and gain awareness of caloric intake and imbalances. 
  2. To safely reverse diet and restart fat loss after failed long-term dieting. 
  3. High-level body recomposition goals, like those prepping for a photo shoot or competition.

That’s it. So what is a better option? 

The Palm Method

My friends at Precision Nutrition have developed an uber-advanced, spectacular way to count calories……

By using the palm of your hand.

 “The palm of my hand?”

Yes! The palm of your hand gives you a consistent measuring tool that is unique to your body and is always with you. When preparing your meals how often does your food touch your hands? If you cook your own food probably quite a bit. Further, this method works well when eating out at restaurants. 

Using the palm of your hand gives you a clear visual of how much food you should eat, rather than trying to estimate how much chicken equals out to 6 ounces.

 For example, Men looking to lose fat would eat this:

  • 1 – 2 palms of protein dense foods with each meal

  • 1 – 2 fists of vegetables with each meal

  • 1 – 2 thumbs of fat dense foods if including extra fats. (avoid in post-workout meal)

  • (Optional) 1 – 2 cupped handfuls of carb dense foods if post-workout or if you tolerate carbs well.

 Women would eat:

  • 1 palm of protein dense foods with each meal

  • 1 fist of vegetables with each meal

  • 1 – 2 thumbs of fat dense foods if including extra fats. (avoid in post-workout meal)

  • (Optional) 1 – 2 cupped handfuls of carb dense foods if post-workout or if you tolerate carbs well.

These obviously change due to factors such as body type, dietary style, carbohydrate tolerance, training intensity, health concerns, and current fitness goals.

Looking to gain lean mass or optimize recovery in your workouts? Increase the carbs post-workout.

Looking to lose body fat fast? Keep starchy carbs low and post-workout.

It doesn’t have to be exact.

It doesn’t have to be complicated.

It doesn’t have to be time-consuming.

Wrap Up

Calorie counting is rarely a feasible, long-term option for long-term sustainable fat loss. At best, it’s a tool to gain awareness and notice trends in your diet. At worst, it’s a wildly inaccurate stress point. Instead, adapt the palm method for stress-free meal tracking and keep your diet on track.

The best plans are rarely the best designed, most complex, most scientifically in depth.

 The best plans, whether it’s diet or exercise, are the plans that are practical and can be done consistently. Consistency is the key.


Looking for a low-stress way to lose fat…and keep it off?

>>Join our free 30-Day Loss Course today<<


Berardi, D. J. (2013, 6 13). How to fix a broken diet:3 ways to get your eating on track. Retrieved from http://www.precisionnutrition.com/fix-a-broken-diet


Heymsfield , S. B., Darby, P. C., Muhlheim, L. S., Gallagher, D., Wolper, C., & Allison, D. B. (1995). The calorie: myth, measurement, and reality.American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 65, 1034-1041. Retrieved from http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/62/5/1034S.full.pdf html


For more information and strategies check out this free 5 day fat loss course for:

Men==> Fat Loss Course For Men

Women ⇒ Fat Loss Course For Women



Travel Hacker: Make it Guilt Free

Travel can make getting a good workout and staying on a routine seemingly impossible.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way.

You see, most people end up with an “All or Nothing” philosophy.




“I’m Going to find a gym and Continue working Out, even if it costs me a good time”

The “screw it” mindset is triggered by an overstressed life, sudden freedom, and poor healthy options on the road.  Those who follow this philosophy generally suffer from fat gain, muscle loss, and overwhelming guilt once they return back home from lengthy trips.

The “All” philosophy isn’t any better.  In most cases, travel takes you out of your routine. gym options are expensive and difficult to find, and the other experiences suffer as a result. Like the “screw it” philosophy, people suffer from overwhelming guilt once they return back home because they neglected great experiences.

See the issue?

Luckily, there’s a happy medium to have Guilt Free Travel.

I’ve tried both extremes and failed miserably. There are better ways to go about your fitness when traveling. To avoid the fat gain, muscle loss, feelings of guilt, and disappointment of travel you must accept that fact that you aren’t in your normal routine. 

You’re traveling either for important business, leisure, or both.  Your sleep , diet, and your workouts will all be altered. That’s okay, lets workout around these things.


Forget the gym. if you have a hotel gym that’s fine, if not, no biggie. The goal is efficiency and working around travel events.

How to start your day:

Slam two glasses of water, turn on some music, do the hotel room workout, shower and take on the day. This an abbreviated Own The AM.

 Hotel Workout:

Description: The Count-Up workout. Start with 1 rep of each exercise, cycle through all of the exercises as fast as you can and add a rep once through the sequence. Go all the way to 10 reps per exercise, take 2 minutes, and repeat if necessary.

A.Push Up



D.Reverse Lunge

E. Single Leg Deadlift

Remember, do 1 rep of each exercise, move to the next exercise, and add a rep all the way to 10.


You have a few options here. On travel days eating is inconvenient and filled with bad options. I’ll pass on the shitty $9.00 Burger King meal while dragging my bags around the airport.

Here are the best options:

Eat a large, healthy meal before you go. Keep the carbs low and load up on healthy proteins, fats, and vegetables. I prefer making a killer omelet.

-4 whole eggs

– 1/2 red pepper, diced

-1/4 cup onion, diced

– left over protein source

-salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste

Eggs taste good with about anything. I raid my fridge for whatever leftovers remain. I’d rather not come home to a moldy fridge.

Also, supershakes tend to work great. I generally always have a protein powder, a healthy fat source like peanut butter, and a greens supplement I can blend together in under 5 minutes. In addition, you can stock up on raw nuts, jerky, and water for your travel.

Or, you can do a fast.

This is my preferred option, especially for fat loss. Not only will you get a big surge of fat burning hormones, you will save money and sanity by avoiding poor options.

If fasting wake up, chug some water, and get rolling to your travel destination. Consume coffee, tea, and lots of water while on the road. Once you arrive at your destination have a pre-planned restaurant to go to. This way, you reward yourself, unwind, and enjoy travel.

In addition, due to the inconvenience of a proper diet I always bring a Greens Supplement with me. In a crunch, these replace most multivitamins and provide you with the benefits of vegetables without stopping at the store on the road.

Do The Following On the Road:


You’re likely jet lagged, dehydrated, and have a ton on your mind. If you’re traveling for work your mind is spinning on whatever task is at hand. If traveling for leisure it’s time to relax. Turn off your alarm (if possible) and take naps if needed.

Move Around

Walking around and exploring new surroundings is a great way to “check out” of your routine and enjoy travel. Get out of the habit of sitting in cars and taxis and walk everywhere, You might even have some fun.  You’re burning more calories and getting more out of your travel without even thinking about it.

Avoid a Diet


If you try to strictly follow a diet you will be sorely disappointed. I fricken love food. In the tropics and want to enjoy some rum? Go for it. In the Deep South and you want to crush chicken and waffles? Do it….but plan a little. Instead of going on a food and booze bender plan when your big meals will be. Make sure you workout either first thing in the morning, or before your big meal. Fast throughout the day, drink tons of water, and stay busy with other activities. This way, you can enjoy the things you came for without blowing up like a marshmallow.

Avoid the “All or Nothing” philosophy and enjoy guilt free travel.

You’re not in your routine and it’s impossible to maintain it while enjoying your travel. Perform mini-workouts, plan your big meals, and stay active. Travel should be enjoyable, don’t let anything takeover the experience–even fitness.

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Hack Your Sleep

If your sleep quality sucks so will your workouts. And your recovery. And your sex life. And your dietary decisions. And your mood. Yea, sleep  is pretty damn important.

Let me tell you a story.

My last two years of college I lived with 6 other guys. It was a blast; however, sleep quality was piss-poor. Specifically, I remember a heat wave during my last year of college. It was July with temperatures 95-105 for about a week straight, with heat indexes hanging out around 110.  Working two jobs, one which was outside all day, and then coming home to “chill” with 6+ dudes was brutal. We didn’t have air conditioning and it stayed about 90 degrees and humid inside all night long, it was as much fun as licking the inside of a toilet bowl. Never, ever have I appreciated the benefits of quality sleep.

Sleep is essential to many of the fundamental attributes for physical health, mental performance, and overall health. Aim to get at least 6 hours, as growth hormone and testosterone peak during sleep.

Plain and Simple, you need at least 6 hours of quality sleep. Lack of sleep is associated with:

  • increased body fat

  • higher stress levels

  • increased hunger

  • smaller muscles

  • less sex and sexual dysfunction

  • irritable behavior

  • earlier death

None of this sounds good to me, so getting high quality sleep is a huge priority. Is it really necessary to check your emails again?

No, F^*% that.

I’d rather have my muscle, intelligence, sanity, abs, and life.

As many as 30% of adults sleep less than six hours per night, the minimum you should try to get per night. Any less than six hours of sleep per night and your testosterone begins to plummet, growth hormone output decreases, and cortisol spikes. Sold on sleep?

Here are 7 Tips to Maximize Your Sleep

1. Turn your room into a cave

In order to fall asleep the body produces melatonin, a hormone that aids the body in relaxing enough to sleep. However, many of todays technologies such as cell phones, alarm clocks, tablets, and emit blue light that disrupts natural circadian rhythms.

For those who aren’t familiar, the circadian rhythm refers to our internal, 24-hour cycle of biochemical, physiological, and behavioral processes. To optimize melatonin production avoid screens 1-2 hours before bed and instead, opt for a book or other relaxing activity and cover all sources of light in your room.

2. Avoid Caffeine

Coffee and caffeinated drinks are great. I drink them when I need an extra boost for workouts or increased alertness early in the morning. When used correctly, caffeine can yield very productive days. Issue is, caffeine has a 6 hour half-life.

Unfortunately, this means that cup of Joe you slurp down at 10am still has caffeine flowing through your body when you’re prepping for sleep and trying to wind down in the evening. You probably don’t even feel the affects causes issues because caffeine disrupts sleep quality through decreased REM sleep, the deep sleep that your body utilizes to recuperate physically and emotionally.

3. Turn down the thermostat

This one takes me back to college. We had a brutal heat wave in Wisconsin (yes this happens), it was 95-105 for about a week straight with a heat index 110+. This would be bearable, but I happened to live in a stuffy house without A/C filled with 6 other guys. In other words, it sucked and I woke up every morning drenched in sweat and dehydrated.

Although sleeping temperature is highly variable from person to person, most scientists agree that slightly cooler temperatures than normal promote deeper sleep patterns.

4.Protein Before Bed

“What happened to eat after 8 gain weight?”

Sorry to burst your bubble, but this is a fallacy. When looking to build an awesome body it’s important to emphasize protein. My favorite before bed is cottage cheese, as the slow digesting casein proteins will provide amino acids to the muscles for hours to come. In addition,
Tryptophan, the amino acid popularized by post-Thanksgiving naps facilitates serotonin production. Serotonin is a neuro-transmitter that assists in sleep regulation.

5. Crush Carbs At Night

First protein at night, now carbs? Eric are you crazy?

Calm down junior, there is nothing wrong with carbs at night.

In fact, placing a bigger emphasis on carbohydrates at night will greatly benefit you sleep quality. Similar to tryptophan, carbohydrates facilitate seratonin production, aiding in improved sleep quality.

6. Have a Cheat Day

Cheat days during a diet are not only beneifical for your sanity but also for hormones such as leptin to keep results coming and sleep quality on par. Keeping consistent leptin levels is paramount  because leptin sends a message to stop eating when your body has fueled up enough. When at a caloric or sleep deficit, leptin decreases, making it more likely to overeat.
In short, this sucks.

When leptin decreases so does your rate of fat loss, which is why your diet may stall. By using a cheat day you can increase your leptin to spark fat burning. In conjunction with this increase in leptin levels the increased calories in your body will increase serotonin production, aiding in sleep quality similar to a huge holiday meal.

7. Set an evening routine

Our bodies like consistency due the consistency of ciradian rhythms. Try unwinding, avoiding P.M. stimulants, stimulating lights from electronics, and practice relaxation techniques such as stretching and meditation. In essence, instead of checking email and watching Mean Girls opt for a book and a comfy chair in a quiet area.

Your body will increase melatonin and serotonin production for higher quality, more restful sleep.

Quality sleep is the most overlooked and neglected factor when it comes to health, body composition improvement, and athletic development. Sleep is your time to improve and reap the benefits of your hard work in the kitchen and gym, maximize sleep to maximize your gains.

How can you improve your sleep? Do you have any tips or tricks?

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