How to increase your pull-ups for a stronger back


I used to only be able to do 1 ½ pull-ups, and that was after eight years of lifting weights consistently! In less than a year, I increased my pull-ups from 1.5 to 10. Here’s how I did it. Perform as many pull-ups, for me that was 1-2, and then quickly get on the assisted pull-up machine, and do 10 more pull-ups with good form (for a total number of 12 pull-ups). I did three sets, with a 2-3 minute break between each set, twice a week, with two full days of rest before performing pull-ups again. For instance, if I did pull-ups on Tuesday, I would do them again on Friday.

If you can only do assisted pull-ups, just decrease the assistance by lowering the weight, or using a lighter band, as you get stronger, to make the exercise more difficult. You might want to do 1 set, two times a week, to start, for 30 days, and add a 2nd set each workout for the next 30 days. After 60 days, you can add the third set, every workout, as long as it doesn’t wear you down.

Go at your own pace. The takeaway is that, whatever exercises you want to excel at, do it twice a week with good form. Whatever muscles you want to grow, work them hard, but not failure, twice a week.

Sample pull-up program:

  • Month 1:  12 assisted pull-ups. 1 set, performed twice a week. That’s 24 pull-ups each week.
  • Month 2:  12 assisted pull-ups. 2 sets (do another 12 pull-ups after a 2-3 minute rest period). That’s 48 pull-ups each week.
  • Month 3:  12 assisted pull-ups. 3 sets (this is three rounds of pull-ups, for a total of 36 pull-ups). Take a 2-3 minute break between each set. That’s 108 pull-ups each week.
  • Month 4:  Do as many un-assisted pull-ups, with good form, and then perform the remaining assisted pull-ups. Total reps (with and without assistance should be 12). That’s a total of 108 pull-ups each week
  • Month 5+: keep going, but you don’t need to do more than 4 sets each workout session.

Photo: me

how many times a day should you eat for weight loss

red top and blue shorts by cliff.jpgIt’s advised to eat every 2-3 hours to keep your metabolism up, but how many times a day you should eat depends on many factors. For instance, many bikini competitors eat six times a day. There’s a lean bodybuilder at my gym who tells his clients to eat ten times a day. An popular female Instagram influencer eats only three times a day. So, what is it? Three, six or ten?

Not only does the total calories, types of food, and how much protein you eat daily, affect your bodyfat composition, but also, how often eating hinders, or works with your lifestyle. If you’re really busy and can only fit in three meals a day, then the six times a day protocol won’t work for you.

When I was thinking about doing a bikini competition, I tried eating six times a day, but eating such small portions made me feel deprived, and eating right before bed was annoying. So, then I tried eating three large meals, three times a day, but I didn’t like how stuffed I felt, and I didn’t like waiting to eat so long between meals. I’ve found what helped me lose the excess weight, and prevents me from overeating, is eating four small meals a day, plus grabbing a handful of nuts as a snack an hour after dinner.

Try eating more, or less often, at certain times, and with different portions of lean proteins, whole food carbs from vegetables and grains, and healthy fats, to find out what works best for you.

Photo: me eating a banana muffin I made. You can find my recipes for over 40 healthy treats, Slimming Dairy-Free Smoothies and Desserts, for $14.95 on my website at TheHighFiveDiet

Sugar-Free Candy-Crunch, Dairy-Free Milkshake

sugar-free, high-protein, dairy-free milkshake.jpgThis lower-carb, low-calorie, high-protein shake, tastes like a decadent dessert, but it’s actually good for you. I use this as my pre-workout fuel, but it’s a great nutritious snack too. To turn it into a mini-meal, use 1 frozen banana instead of half a banana, which only adds an additional 50 calories and 15 grams of healthy whole-food carbohydrates.

Sugar-Free, Candy-Crunch, Dairy-Free Milkshake

  • 2 dried figs, chopped (don’t omit, it’s what makes it sweet and unique)
  • 1 cup almond milk, unsweetened
  • splash of cold filtered coffee
  • ¼ cup collagen protein powder (I use Great Lakes)
  • 5 grams creatine monohydrate (optional)
  • ½ banana, frozen, broken into 1-inch pieces
  • ¼- 1/3 cup ice

Add all ingredients, except for the banana and ice, and blend for 30 seconds. Add banana and ice, and blend for 10 seconds. Mix with spoon. Blend for another 10 seconds to fully incorporate all ingredients. That’s it! You can eat this with a spoon, or sip it.

Nutritional information:    Calories: 255     Carbs: 30    Protein: 20 grams



Before dieting, do this


If you’ve spoken to a smoker about quitting, they know they need to stop smoking because of its hazardous effects on their health. They may stop and then start again, or they may say they will stop smoking tomorrow, and never do; or, they’ll keep pushing the date further and further into the future, because of Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, or a friend’s wedding is coming up…because holidays are stressful events. You can apply this same behavior and mindset to people who want and need to lose weight. Yes, it’s hard. Breaking bad habits are difficult. Stressful, or even fun events make change more challenging, so I came up with a to-do list before someone embarks on their weight loss journey to make the process an easier transition, with a much higher likeliness of success.

  1. Sign up for blog posts on weight loss (yes, like mine here!), that deliver helpful information at least once a week. You don’t need to follow any of the advice, just read the articles.
  2. Buy at least one book on weight loss and read a little bit each day. You don’t have to follow any of the tips yet, just read it. Just reading about how to lose weight, typically gets people motivated to make changes. (You can find my diet book, The High-Five Diet, on Amazon for $14.95).
  3. Exercise daily. Ideally, you would do some sort of cardiovascular activity like walking for 30-60 minutes 3-4 days a week, work on flexibility, such as a yoga at least once a week; and weight train 2-3 days a week, to start. For many people, just the act of exercising make them more motivated to make better food choices.
  4. Pick a date that you’d like to start changing your eating habits, and circle it on your calendar. Put bi-monthly reminders on your phone or computer that reads: “Starting healthy eating habits today!” This will remind you that good changes are coming.
  5. Buy cookbooks that are designed for healthy eating, with the calories listed. (You can check out my cookbooks on Amazon: The High-Five Diet, and Slimming Dairy-Free Smoothies & Desserts). Each meal should contain no more than 500 calories. Look through the cookbooks, and flag the ones you want to make when you start your diet.
  6. Tell everyone you know, the exact day you’re starting your diet, and that you’d like them to support you in your efforts.
  7. Buy clothes that are attractive that fit your current body. There’s no reason to wait until you lose weight to look and feel good about yourself right now.
  8. Anytime a negative thought about your past weight loss failures comes to mind, like “you’ve done diet programs before; they don’t work,” or “you’ll never lose weight,” or “you’ll lose it, but you’ll gain it back and be even fatter,” stop. Remind yourself that you are strong. Other people have lost weight so you can too. This time is different because you’re dedicated and you’re trying a new method (such as the steps outlined here). Being positive has a profound effect on your results, so assume you will succeed.
  9. Ask a fit person over 30, who cares about the food choices they eat, how they refrain from giving in to cravings. Remember that everyone can be overweight if they eat too much, and most people like to give advice, and will be honored that you asked for their opinion. You’ll find that everyone has trouble saying no to treats and overeats from time-to-time.
  10. Search out restaurants and food prep companies for healthy options that you can go to when you start your diet so you have that information ready when the time comes to start your new diet program.

I acknowledge that this list is quite long, but, be assured that you can take your time. It’s okay to pick a date to start your diet, six months or even a year from now, but it’s really important to pick a date, and stick to it. Know that you’ll slip up, but dieting, or transitioning to healthier eating, which I prefer, is something that is an ever-changing work-in-process. I started my weight loss by cutting out Top Ramen noodles and Jimmy Dean sausages; I could never have eaten as clean as I do today, back then. The trick is to keep trying, never give up, and be as consistent as you can.

Photo: Yep, that’s me. Making healthier food choices was not easy for me, but having fruit ready to grab, and not having candy in the house, made a big difference in how I felt.


The latest study on hydration to ignore

_l5a1234_lightroom_export_full_size_jpeg_300dpi_srgbA small study from Scotland’s St. Andrew’s University of 72 fasted males, theorized that that milk is more hydrating than water because milk contains fat, lactose (milk sugar), salt, and a little bit of protein (1). Those same macronutrients, fat, protein, and carbs, are what helps fill us up, which is why it’s recommended that all three are included in each and every meal, so we don’t try to satisfy our hunger cravings with snacks like crackers and pretzels. Stay away from animal milk; it’s full of hormones; milk’s goal is to fatten up the animal’s baby.

One thing to note about this study is that the men were fasting, so, of course they would feel fuller and had more fluid retention, if they had a drink with calories and salt, versus water. Sodium is an essential nutrient, which means, we cannot live without it. Without adequate salt intake, while simultaneously consuming too much water, called hyponatremia, runners are susceptible to “…seizures, coma, and even death. (2)”

The bottom line is that, if you’re thirsty, drink water, and don’t limit salt too much. Eat a small meal prior to exercising, I prefer a banana smoothie with almond milk and vegan protein powder, which provides hydration, nutrients and potassium (from the banana). Keep drinking filtered water, and limit anything with sugar and chemicals, like sodas and unnatural colors (that’s a sure sign you’re drinking chemicals).

photo: me drinking water



The difference between thin & fit

so, you think you're healthy.PNG

The appearance of a slender woman in a tight black dress is a vision of fitness, but, in reality, she may just be thin and weak. A man with a 6-pack is usually just an indication of low bodyfat (he may be a weakling with nice looking abs). Being slim and strong have absolutely no correlation with each other. If you want to slim down, you’ll need to eat fewer calories, preferably by cutting out junk food and eating a lot more vegetables, and you’ll probably need to do at least 30 minutes of daily exercise to get that weight down to where you want it.

If you want to be fit, you’ll want to find productive ways to deal with stress, sleep, on average, 7-8 hours nightly; keep alcohol to a minimum; avoid non-prescription drugs; don’t smoke anything; cut out most processed foods; eat a majority of foods from vegetables, beans, lean proteins, whole grains, nuts, and seeds (in that order); maintain a healthy bodyfat percentage for your age and gender; do weight bearing exercises at least twice a week, plus add 30 minutes of exercise another five days each week. You’ll also want to practice 5-10 minutes of stretching and mobility exercises on a daily basis.

Being fit takes more work, than just being thin, but it’s more rewarding in that you’ll be healthier, have less aches and pains, look more attractive, and have a lot more energy.

Photo: If you smoke cigarettes, you can’t do push ups, or get off the floor with ease, you’re not fit.

Tofu Scramble with Roasted Potatoes

tofu scramble with roasted potatoes recipe

If you don’t eat eggs, but miss scrambled eggs with potatoes for breakfast, this vegan variation will satisfy that craving.

Tofu Scramble with Roasted Potatoes

  • 1 red onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded, cored and diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded, cored and diced
  • 7 red potatoes, washed and diced
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 package medium firm tofu, drained
  • 2 T nutritional yeast
  • 1 T coconut aminos
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 T hot sauce
  • 1/3 cup Kalamata olives, sliced
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp cumin powder
  • ¼ tsp chili powder

Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place onions, bell peppers, potatoes, and olive oil in a large rectangular baking dish and toss to combine. Bake for 30-45 minutes, turning and checking every 15 minutes.

Drain tofu and use paper towels to soak up excess water. Use a potato masher to smash tofu so that it resembles scrambled eggs. Add coconut aminos, cilantro, hot sauce, Kalamata olives, salt, garlic, cumin, and chili powder. Mix until combined.

When potatoes are crispy, portion out ¾-1 cup of potatoes per person with ½ cup to ¾ cup tofu scramble, and toss on plate to combine. Sprinkle more hot sauce on top, if desired. Eat immediately. Keep covered in refrigerator. Heat leftovers in microwave.





Walking is not strengthening

yogaA potential client met with me at the gym because she wants to lose 10 pounds, reduce pain, and increase strength. She said she presently strength trains by stretching and walking on the treadmill. I informed her that stretching is great, but it is to be used at the end of a workout to promote flexibility and normal range of motion. Stretching doesn’t make you stronger. I also told her that walking helps with stability, to a point, but it’s not considered a strength-training form of exercise. Walking is low-intensity cardio. She was shocked to learn that walking is a cardiovascular activity that doesn’t make your entire body stronger.

I learned something from her too. Now I know why so many seniors think walking is all the exercise they need to do. Doctors tell their patients to strength train and walk, but they don’t explain that strength training includes using weights, bands, and challenging bodyweight exercises like squats, push-ups, and lunges.

In our computer age, too many people sit for excessive hours at a time, which causes limited spinal mobility, back pain, shoulder pain, rounded shoulders, postural imbalances, headaches, eye strain, and finger and joint pain. This issues can be addressed with specific exercises that cannot be corrected with a walk or stretches.

If your shoulders are rotated forwards from incorrect posture from sitting or standing, you would need to do upper back and rear shoulder strengthening exercises at least twice a week. Sitting less makes a huge different too. You would also need to strengthen your abs with targeted exercises to protect your low back. Stretches and walking won’t help these problems even though you feel good after doing them.

I encourage walking and stretching, but it’s not enough. Everyone needs to do a minimum of 30 minutes of some sort of cardiovascular exercise each and every day, in addition to a challenging (it just needs to be challenging for you) weight training workout two or more times a week, to prevent injury and pain. Don’t make the excuse that you don’t have time; make time to invest in your health! Aren’t you worth it?

Photo: Me. Yoga is great for balance and flexibility, but it’s not great at strengthening your back, glutes or hamstrings. Lots of people cheat at yoga, so they aren’t getting the full benefits. They may not realize they are cheating; they just don’t have the strength to do a chaturanga push-up, or hold a proper warrior pose. Keep practicing yoga, but add weight training to your workout regimen too.

How to turn weight loss failure into success


If you’ve tried one or more weight loss programs, and you were not able to lose weight, or keep the weight off, it’s not that you’re a failure; it just means that weight loss program didn’t fit you well. Weight loss programs don’t work for everyone because we all have different jobs, different likes, different work hours, and different medical conditions.

If you try a weight loss program for a week and hate everything about it, then try something else. If you generally do well on a diet plan, but don’t follow it exactly because you went out to eat, or can’t give up that ice cream before bed, that’s okay. Just keep trying. It takes a long time to change eating habits that have been ingrained for years. It takes strong willpower to say no to fattening, delicious foods that surround and tease us on a daily basis.

The trick to turning those failures into progressive weight loss, is to keep trying, but also be aware of the little voice inside you. Does that voice punish you for eating that treat? Don’t do that! Or, does it tell you that you did well throughout the day, and you’ll try to skip that food tomorrow? That’s better. Or, do you tell yourself that it’s too hard and you always fail at everything you do? Don’t do that! That just ingrains your perception that you will never succeed.

The other thing people do that derails them from weight loss is to think of a diet as: awful, punishment, bland, or yucky-tasteless-healthy-food. Vegetables aren’t gross; you don’t have to eat them raw, or boil or steam them, but you do have to eat them daily if you want to improve your health.

Losing extra weight is a gift to your body and your family because you will be happier and feel better. You can get creative and try different recipes to see which ones you like and help get the weight off.

A positive outlook, lots of self-encouragement, really trying, and following steps that will help you progress, like planning and making meals and low-calorie snacks in advance, will lead you on the right track.

pros and cons of intermittent fasting


First, it was the Atkins diet that was all the rage, then it was Paleo, then it was the ketogenic diet, and now it seems that intermittent fasting is what everyone is trying to lose bodyfat. What you want to know is, does it work, and it is sustainable? The answers to both questions is yes and no because it depends, person to person, how many hours the fast is, the time they allow themselves to eat their first meal, and the time they restrict eating altogether.

Everyone can benefit from a normal intermittent fast, because we shouldn’t be eating, day and night. If you had ice cream after dinner at 7:30pm and didn’t eat again until 8:00am, that’s a fast of 12 ½ hours. At 8:00am, you had breakfast; you broke the fast. Some people extend the fast, such as not eating until 10:00am, or even 1:00pm.

While confining eating between certain hours is a good idea, some people take it to extremes, like eating from 1:00pm to 7:00pm, all the while, suffering from starvation and dizzy headedness in the morning, and stuffing themselves before 7:00pm.

If you wake up hungry, you should eat something. The right foods act as fuel and allow the human body to function properly. People of all bodyfat percentages, some normal and some in the obese category, have told me that they use intermittent fasting, and that it works for them. Maybe, for some of them, it worked for them initially, but it’s apparent, it’s not working anymore.

The key to fat loss is how many calories are consumed on a daily basis, not the time frames food is eaten. Having a flexible range of hours to eat is a good first start, but make sure those hours don’t hinder performance at the gym, or at work. What’s more important than intermittent fasting is food quality, and portion size when it comes to weight loss and improved health.

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