Trying to Trim Down? Are You Eating for Your Body Type?

After taking some time off to open my personal training studio, Body Space Fitness-NYC, I’m finally back to writing about the things that I love.  Feels good to be back!    In this post I wanted to answer a question that I’m being asked more and more:  “What should I be eating and how much should I be eating?”  This of course, is a question that could take a whole book to answer.  However, there are starting points to help you on your way.

The first thing, regarding the “What” to eat, I usually tell people to “Just Eat Real Food” (thanks Sean Croxton).  The second step is for people who are working out, eating “right” and seeing some progress but want to see more progress.  For you guys I ask the question, “Are you eating the right amount for your body type?”  It’s at this point that you can usually cue the blank stare and the 10-15 seconds of silence.  What I mean is that we know that there are three main body types (or Somatotypes):  Ectomorphic, Mesomorphic and Endomorphic.  Without going into too much detail and making this post too long I’ll refer to the graphic below.  I’ll also refer to the following article from Precision Nutrition that does a good job of detailing the differences.(


In a nut shell the 3 body types have different characteristics and macronutrient needs.

Ectomorphic – Usually endurance athletes:  Suggested Macronutrient Percentages (25% Protein, 55% Carbs, 20% Fat)

Mesomorphic – Bodybuilding and relative strength athletes:  Suggested Macronutrient Percentages (30% Protein, 40% Carbs, 30% Fat)

Endomorphic – Absolute strength athletes: Suggested Macronutrient Percentages (35% Protein, 25% Carbs, 40% Fat)

I know you’re probably thinking, “holy crap 30% of my calories from fat.”  That’s what I thought too until I tried it and it worked.  Luckily I didn’t make this stuff up, it all came from Dr. John Berardi of Precision Nutrition, who I received my Nutrition Certification for Fitness Professionals from.

So let’s do an example.  First thing we want to do is figure out how many calories we should have by multiplying our body weight in pounds by the appropriate multiplier.  A basic calorie estimator table would show the following multipliers:

Weight Loss        Weight Maintenance     Weight Gain

Sedentary (Minimal Exercise)                             10-12                                 12-14                         16-18

Moderately Active (3-4 times/wk)                    12-14                                  14-16                         18-20

Very Active (5-7 times/wk)                                 14-16                                  16-18                         20-22


Once we know our activity level, our goal and our body type we can then figure out how many calories of protein, carbs and fat we should be having.

Let’s say I have a 130 pound female client, who is a moderately active mesomorph.  Her goal is to lose weight while maintaining muscle mass.  With that in mind we’ll use a multiplier of 12-14 times bodyweight to determine the calorie range and a macronutrient split of 30%/40%/30% for protein, carbs and fat.  For her this means she’s looking at 1560-1820 calories per day (or an average 1690 calories per day).  This would translate to 507 calories from protein, 676 calories from carbs and 507 calories from fat.

Wait…don’t freak out on me yet.  You have to remember that we don’t really eat in calories… we eat in weight so let’s convert these to grams (4 calories per gram of carb and protein and 9 calories per gram of fat).  Knowing that, we can break it down to 127 grams of protein, 169 grams of carbs and 56 grams of fat.  To put it into perspective, one cup of avocado (150 grams) has 22grams of fat.  One ounce of walnuts (or 14 halves) has 18 grams of fatOne cup of egg whites has 26 grams of protein.  So when you get down to it you’ll see that it’s doesn’t take a lot of good, nutrient dense food to reach your goal.

It’s not easy, but if this sounds like you give this method of figuring out what to eat a try.

Disclaimer:  I am not a Registered Dietitian

The Holidays Are Coming…What’s Your Game Plan

I know! It feels like we were just hanging at the beach in 95 degree weather (if you’re in a part of the world where you’re still going to the beach, keep it to yourself). Either way the 3 -headed holiday gauntlet that causes our blue jeans to run for cover is upon us. That’s right, I’m talking about Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

There’s been a lot of research that shows that typical Americans gain anywhere from 1-5 pounds during the holiday season.   This year however, we’re going to change that!  By having a plan and starting it NOW! 

I blame holiday weight gain on 3 things:

  1. Lack of Exercise – With traveling, parties, visiting family members, shopping and work it seems like there’s never enough time.  And of course to make time in our schedule for other things, our time in the gym or working out gets cut drastically. 
  2. Bad Dietary Habits – From candy to all the parties to the holiday stuffing and leftovers, there are a number of ways that bad dietary habits sneak up on us.
  3. Increased Levels of Stress – This is one that a lot of people don’t realize but yes, stress does make you gain weight.  A number of studies have shown that stress increases during the holiday (choose reasons 1-100).  And the bad news for women is that they’re much more likely to be hit by holiday induced stress than men. 

So what can we do about it?  It’s very simple… have a plan and stick to it!  I know what you’re thinking, “easier said than done!”  To that I say, “you’re right.”  This falls into a category of things that I refer to as, “simple…..but not easy.”    Like with any other plan, there has to be execution backed by self discipline (for a great read on building self discipline check out 

Make time and schedule your workout.  If you’re going to be at home, carve time out of your day and put it into your schedule.  Have a backup time and date to work out if for some reason you miss a workout.  If you’re going to be away from home with no gym, start getting used to doing workouts with body weight, bands or free weights.  Just because you don’t have a gym, that’s no excuse!

Plan your crappy eating days and stick to the 80/20 rule, meaning that for every 10 meals, two of them can be whatever you want.  Leave the house prepared every day. If you can’t pack a lunch, look around and find places that have good food.  Plan on where you’ll go for lunch or dinner.  And as usual, make sure you have the right amount of fat, protein and the right type of carbohydrates throughout the day.

 As for stress….hmm that’s a tricky one.  I’m a trainer, not a psychologist.  No seriously, try to find some time during the day to give yourself a break.  Take a few minutes to stop and smell the roses.  Learn some quick mind clearing and meditation techniques.  Treat yourself to a spa day.  Put down the Blackberry and chill out with friends. 

Either way now is the time to start putting your plan together.  If you need help with your plan don’t hesitate to ask me a question via facebook, twitter or email.  Good luck!

If You’re Looking to Burn More Calories, a Little Pre-Workout Protein Goes A Long Way

Every now and then I’ll be posed with the issue of finding new information that may contradict what I have told clients or readers before.  My take is that if new information comes up and it’s valid then it’s okay to change my mind. Being stubborn and standing my ground won’t help my clients and won’t help me learn and grow.

So is the case with the topic of pre-workout protein intake.   Some time ago I had a reader ask me what I thought about protein shakes before and after working out.  My answer was that it’s great to have a little during and immediately after a workout to help aid recovery.  While, I may not have been totally wrong, I wasn’t totally right.

A  research article in the May 2010 Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise showed that taking in protein before resistance training could lead to higher calorie burn post exercise.  The study titled, “Timing Protein Intake Increased Energy Expenditure 24 Hours After Resistance Training,” looked at groups of males and females.  During one part of the study, participants were given a protein supplement (18 g of whey protein, 2 g of carbohydrate, 1.5 g of fat) and during the other part of the study participants were given a carbohydrate rich supplement (1 g of whey protein, 19 g of carbohydrate, 1 g of fat) 20 minutes before training.  What the researchers found was that after 24 hours both groups had an elevated “Resting Energy Expenditure” or REE compared with baseline.  After 24 hours however, the study participants who took in protein prior to training experienced REE much greater than when they took a carbohydrate supplement.  So even at rest, the group that took a protein supplement burned energy at an elevated rate.

So simply put, taking in a little protein (via natural protein or via shake) can be a SIMPLE, EASY and EFFECTIVE way to increase energy expenditure and burn more calories.

Eat More Meat to Burn Fat?

Now I know you’re thinking, “Really” but just hear me out. The argument that lean protein (more specifically lean animal protein) helps facilitate fat loss is a pretty compelling one. This is laid out nicely in the book, “The Paleo Diet” by Loren Cordain, Ph.D.. In the book, Dr. Cordain makes the claim that lean protein can help promote weight loss in the following ways:

A) Protein Helps Burn More Calories – We know that all calories are not created equal. Of the calories that we take in and burn, a large portion is burned in the normal operation of our body (the heart pumping, lungs working, etc). Another portion is burned during our daily activities. Still a smaller yet significant portion of the calories that we burn can be attributed to what’s called the “Thermic Effect” of food. This is the energy that it takes to ingest, digest and metabolize the food that you eat. It’s also known as DIT or “Dietary-Induced Thermogenisis”. Proteins are known to have a much larger DIT compared to carbohydrates and fats. “This means that protein boosts your metabolism and causes you to loss weight more rapidly than the same caloric amounts of fat or carbohydrate,” Dr. Cordain concludes.

B) Protein Satisfies Your appetite – Research has shown that lean animal protein satisfies hunger more than fats and carbohydrates alone and helps reduce hunger between meals. “It’s also very hard to over eat lean proteins”, Dr. Cordain says.

C) Protein Improves Your Insulin Sensitivity – Insulin is a hormone that serves several functions in the body. Among them, an elevated level of insulin in the bloodstream prompts the body to store fat. Research has shown that lean protein help the body metabolize insulin where as high carbohydrate/high GI diets (that may spike blood sugar levels) increase insulin production.

Now I’m not a dietitian or nutritional counselor so I can’t prescribe specific nutritional advice. But I am a scientist (engineers count as scientist) and a certified fitness professional and love when there’s research and solid data to back up an argument. As a personal trainer, my job is to do the research and provide my clients with my take on the nutritional information that’s available. My take on this book and this plan is that it’s work your time to give it a look.

Good Luck!

*All of the information in bullet points above can be found in the book, “The Paleo-Diet”

The Right Calories In: Why Cutting the Right Calories Out of Your Diet Makes a Big Difference

Some time ago I wrote a quick blog regarding the thought that to lose weight, calories in have to be less than calories out. Since we know that there are 3500 calories in a pound of fat, it’s easy to assume that if we cut 3500 calories out of out diet then we’ll lose a pound. I’ll admit that the truth goes deeper than that. As my good buddy, NYU Stern classmate and Crossfit junkie (don’t get me started on that one) Joe Rosen pointed out to me, the notion that “weight change = calories in-calories out“ discounts the effects of both hormonal causes of obesity and the effects of the types of calories that you take in.

Even before Joe brought him up, I had heard of the work of a scientist by the name of Gary Taubes. Taubes is the author of “Good Calories , Bad Calories” and numerous other books and articles. Taubes had a recent articles in the New York Times Magaizine: “Is Sugar Toxic” (April 17, 2011). I also recently took the time to go through Taubes’ latest book, “Why We Get Fat: And What We can Do About It”. While I disagree with some of the points he makes about exercise and with some of the points about eating not being psychologically driven, he lays out a solid argument that it’s not how much we eat that makes us fat. More so it’s what we eat that not only makes us eat more and but makes us store more of what we eat as fat. In particular, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), sugar and refined starches. All of the mentioned have become staples in the typical American diet and have the effect of raising insulin levels, which is your body’s signal to store energy. The longer your insulin stays high, the longer your body stays in fat storage mode. With HFCS, the implications on fat storage are even greater.

I won’t get deep into the details in this post, as that’s already been done for me. I highly, highly recommend taking the time to watch the video below by Dr. Robert Lustig entitled, “Sugar: The Bitter Truth.” It may seem long but it’s well worth it. Bookmark it and watch it in bits if you have to. While he uses the term “obese,” the point he makes also applies to that person who wants to shave of that extra 5, 10 or 15 pounds.

I also recommend checking out Gary Taubes’s work. The link for his New York Times Magaizine article is: In “Why We Get Fat,” he spends the first 10 chapters laying out the facts and data to make his point and doesn’t get to the good stuff until around chapter 11 (Yes, I do skip through tivo’d shows to get to the good part faster as well). Good Luck!