My Story Is Simple - Improved Food and Nutrition Changed My Life!
As a Health and Fitness Coach for the past twenty five years and competitive athlete for most of my life, nutrition had always played a major role in my everyday and athletic performance. Competing in biathlons, triathlons, standup paddle board events and outrigger canoe races largely included plenty of carb loading, along with processed sports performance drinks, shakes and bars loaded with sugar. I admit I was part of the herd that just following along, aimlessly consuming large amounts of inferior food and fuel until finally one day, I came to the conclusion that my nutritional strategy had to change.
(2012 at 240LBS)
In essence and given my background, I thought I knew a lot about food at the time. I mean I looked the part, was in serious shape by most standards (or so I thought), but like many didn't understand the negative effects the Standard American Diet was having on my body. Yes carbs got me big, loaded my muscles with glucose/fuel, and provided the energy I needed to workout, perform and compete. But after many years of constant blood sugar spikes, energy crashes (which only coffee could fix), abdominal bloating and misc digestive issues (bathroom blow outs and gas) I would soon learn that ALL of these issues were both NOT normal or necessary. Turns out my consuming all of those so called "healthy foods" like grains, bread, pasta, potato, pancakes, waffles along with an assortment of sports performance products were causing more havoc on my body mentally and physically than they were doing me good!
In December of 2012 which was about the time I brought my personal training services to NYC, I came upon a guy by the name of Mark Sisson. Mark had a Primal Health Blog called Mark's Daily Apple, which had many followers. Mark was also a former world class ironman who had some very interesting content within his site and a book called "The Primal Blueprint". Initially much of what I read within Marks content went against most everything I had ever learned regarding nutrition, but the more I read the more I started to understand what I was experiencing, what I needed to fix and why. His research which changed his own life started to make complete sense and would soon change mine. Nutrition had always been a passion of mine and it was during this time that the “gluten free” movement and "Paleo diet" started gaining quite a bit of popularity. Mark was onto something and in a big way!
Time to Make Some Changes!
Upon further research and at the start of 2013, I decided to make some initial changes myself which to many seemed drastic, but I've always been an "all in" kind of guy. I initially cut out all wheat, bread, processed flour and grains. Within 2 weeks my digestive-related symptoms all but disappeared. I never realized how intolerant my body was to wheat (gluten & lectins) I had always thought that feeling bloated was just a normal part of life and our bodies digestion. During weeks 3 & 4 I started leaning out and my abs started to show again, YES!. Nothing had changed within my weekly workout routines, only my food. To my surprise my seasonal allergies had also disappeared that spring and I’ve not had them back since. Given my results I decided to eliminate everything processed as well as sugar and man-made hydrogenated seed and vegetable oils.
Instead I started concentrating solely on whole foods such as: grass fed meat, cold water/wild caught fish such as salmon/sardines/anchovies, some shell fish, organic chicken & eggs, and a large variety of veggies. My intake also included some misc nuts, seeds, artisanal cheese, 85% cocoa chocolate, avocado, a little red wine and avocado/olive oils and olives. Foods the body completely understands down to the cellular level!
By the end of my second month (8 weeks) my body weight had dropped from 240 to 220 lbs without any additional cardio exercising or cutting calories. I simply improved both the quality of food I was ingesting and the balance of calories meaning protein, carbs and healthy rich omega-3 rich fats. My body's digestion had also greatly improved, and my blood sugar was more stable which provided my body the opportunity to burn fat rather than storing it! Within 5 months and by the beginning of June 2013 I had lost 35 lbs and was now weighing 205 lbs, which allowed me to move in ways I hadn’t moved in years. Yes I still had my strength but I was now running sprints again which I hadn't done in years. My pant size went from a 36" to a 33", and it felt great being able to fit into some fashionable clothing again. For the majority of my life I was an old school believer that it was 80% fitness training and 20% nutrition, but today I live by a new formula which is 70% nutrition, 20% training, and 10% sleep and stress management. Don’t get me wrong fitness training and explosive cardio work is still very important, but what I realized most was “you can’t out train a bad diet”, and “change only happens when we change whats not working".
It was during that summer that I had improved my overall time by :50 minutes while "standup paddle board racing" 25-miles around the island of Manhattan. Now that I was operating on a better balance of calories and healthy nutrient dense foods, I was performing better in all aspects of my life.
No carb loading or consumption of sugar loaded sports drinks were necessary. To the astonishment of many, I was now performing on good old H2O while my body was utilizing fat for fuel!
But there was a problem
Fast forward to the 2016 outrigger canoe race season. We had just completed six (6) bucket list races, the last of which being a 32-mile change race from Newport Beach, Ca to Catalina Island. My body was performing much more efficiently than any previous season. The difference? I was now hard-wired to burn and metabolize fat for fuel. No longer on the Standard American diet my body was completely BONK proof, running on good old H2O and body fat from race start to finish (thats me 3rd seat from the front).
From the outside looking in most would say I looked like the picture of health. But to be honest and although I could perform at a very high level, my body was in constant physical pain. We finished the season taking a 3rd place during Octobers 41-mile "Molokai Hoe". This is not only an open ocean channel crossing (across the Kaiwi Channel) but an elite race of only 100 teams which starts on the island of Molokai and finishes on the shores of Waikiki beach, Oahu. Yes it was an amazing adventure but I can still remember laying in the sand at the waters edge looking up at the sky thinking to myself, "I need a new body, I am completely baked", and I was. There was something wrong! For most of the 2016 race season I had also experienced issues sleeping and my left hand, elbow, knee, hip and neck always felt aggravated. My resting heart rate was up, I was more irritable than usual, was walking/moving a bit slower than usual and had lost a combination of both muscle and flexibility. The LONG DISTANCE racing as it turns out had taken its toll on me.
With further research and help from others in the Primal & Ancestral Health community, I realized I was suffering from “adrenal fatigue”. To explain it simply, my body given all of the long distant efforts was in constant fight or flight stress mode putting my sympathetic nervous system in overdrive which produces high levels of cortisol (our stress hormone). I was mentally & physically burnt out!
As much as I love competition, I've since given up all forms of long distance paddling and have spent most of my efforts on both strength training and HIIT workouts. I also incorporate doing quick sprints on the rower, assault bike and skierg which not only builds a stronger much improved cardio engine but promotes strong functional muscle too. I've also cut my training time in half but the results are amazing! No long distance anything moving forward, I feel great!
Additionally I've also become a Certified Health Coach and have had the pleasure of not only sharing my experiences with many of my clients but I have also helped hundreds of others improve their health, well being and performance by assisting in making a successful lifestyle change. What began as an elimination strategy for me with food to solve my own digestive issues, food intolerances and blood sugar spikes turned into an opportunity to help others which I am very passionate about.
Realizing many of today's afflictions can be prevented or reversed with diet and lifestyle changes. (i.e., obesity, heart attacks, back issues, knee/hip replacements, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and IBS in adults). It bothered me to think of how many people suffer, thinking they have drawn the short straw with their health, that their problems are genetic or that they are just getting old and this is all inevitable. In some cases that may be true, but often it's not, it's often within your control to improve your health.
I had also attended the masterclass at Mark Sisson’s house in Malibu. Today I use this training along with my own diverse background to help clients optimize performance so they to can become the best version of themselves which you can review within the testimonial section of my site.
How Has Health Coaching Changed My Life?
It's allowed me to break the rules, try various meal plans new to most and to use my own body as the test tube over the past six (6) years so to pass my experience, outcome and knowledge off to others. Some of the meal plans have included:
Keto for two (2) years
Primal/Paleo for thee (3) years
Carnivore for one (1) year
I still totally enjoy fitness and strength training today but have found better results cutting my training sessions in half (without losing the intensity within the workouts) so I can concentrate most of my efforts on RECOVERY and NUTRITION. In fact it has made all the difference in the world.
Today I am proud to share that I maintain a 33" inch pant and a body weight of 205 pounds. I'm alsoam lighter on my feet with improved energy, focus, and mood and sleep better which aids in both daily performance and recovery after my workouts. I can once again do quick sprints and am feeling like I’m 39 all over again.
I think I'm living proof that AGE is JUST A NUMBER!