6 Week Cut Progress

NOTE: Below, is re-blogged from my newsletter 1st Feb 2019.

I’m currently in the middle point of a diet for aesthetics. I’ve cut weight for fighting numerous times, but I’ve never followed a program specifically for aesthetics before. I have several  reasons for doing this.

 I feel that as a fitness professional there is a huge difference between being in the game 10 years growing constantly, and doing the same year over ten times. If you don’t try running the programs yourself how can you confidently implement them?

Maybe most importantly, the idea of being restricted in food (for comfort or socialization) and alcohol made me a little scared, to be honest. The idea of working a thirteen-hour day and then coming home and not being able to have something delicious made me uncomfortable. So, I felt this was something I had to do, we all know growth happens outside the comfort zone. Lastly, I need six pack abs if I’m ever going to destroy my enemies in the fitness world (not hyperbole).


I posted this photo recently on Instagram and I received a lot of positive feedback, for which I am very grateful. Also, all this encouragement I see as another layer of accountability, but even so, I felt the immediate urge to qualify it posting thIs comparison photo.


Posting this comparison photo I felt the immediate urge to qualify it. I wanted to say “hey you can still sort of kinda see the top two abs, or mention my recent squat/deadlift PR.” I felt the need to qualify looking puffy. I don’t really like the photo. Don’t like how I look, bad lighting (#fitspo is 85% lighting) but I think it’s important to share how much change can happen in 5 weeks. Also, I think it’s important if I’m going to LEAD you in your journey you understand I’m not a robot. I feel vulnerable, weak, and unsatisfied at times also. If I didn’t I wouldn’t be able to help you.

I wanted to say “Hey, you can still sort-of kinda see the top two abs,” or mention my recent squat/deadlift PR.  I felt the need to looking looking what I saw as puffy. I don’t really like the photo. I don’t like how I look, there’s bad lighting (#fitspo is 85% lighting), but I think it’s important to share how much change can happen in 5 weeks. That was a photo after completing week one of my diet and program. Also, I think it’s important if I’m going to LEAD you in your journey you understand that I’m not a robot. I feel vulnerable, weak, and unsatisfied at times. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to help you.


I received several inquires to what the diet I’m doing includes. My knee jerk reaction was to explain it’s complexity with: “well you train like a Viking and don’t eat like an asshole, repeat to desired effect.” In all seriousness, well actually in all seriousness, DO THAT! But, to be more specific I simply tracked all my food, kept protein consistent, and slowly dialed down the calories for the energy macronutrients (fat & carbs). To get slightly more detailed I try to time carbs around my workouts. No foods are off limits except alcohol (the 5th food group).

For the most part everyone already knows how to get leaner. If I showed you grilled chicken and broccoli and then a plate of pasta, you know which is better for weight loss! Eighty percent of results from a weight loss plan is hitting the appropriate number of macro nutrients and total calories. A widely excepted rule of thumb that predates the world wide web, blogger “experts,” and skinny jeans is that you should have roughly one gram per pound of bodyweight. I don’t want this to turn into a discussion of protein, if you want to delve deeper look into the material published by Renaissance Periodization.

Also, I’m not drinking. This goes back to my main point that unless you want to get bodybuilding competition shredded, you already know how to lose weight. I especially already know! So, why am I successful (at the moment)? I have layers of accountability, I know why I’m doing this, and I have confidence in the program.


 Does your diet pass the giggle test? What do I mean by that? Well, if you tell someone your new cockamamie diet plan and their first reaction is a giggle it’s probably not the best idea. “Jill I’m only eating foods in blue packaging on even numbers of the the clock.” That being said, this diet will work at least at first. Because any diet that reduces the number of calories in versus out will work (for a time). Keto, let’s just cut the shit please. You don’t actually believe it’s a good idea you just want to be able to eat bacon wrapped avocados all the time.


I have a coach. Yes, coaches need coaches, especially good ones! I have a very supportive girlfriend Cara (@captainstarbuck). As far as not drinking I told my girlfriend I was going to cut out alcohol on our anniversary until the project is done. Then on Christmas numerous people gave me bottles of whiskey. Which I asked Cara what that means people think? To which she replied: “well it’s because you’re like a man’s man, or they think you’re a functioning alcoholic, or a little of both.” Also, I now have this post on IG now I’m for my half-way mark, so I need to show change once I’m at 12 weeks. Next and maybe most important I paid money for this diet, I suggest you do too. This is isn’t even a sales pitch because I can’t legally tell you specific guidelines but I’m going to let you in on a secret I learned the hard way: people don’t respect things that are unconditionally free! So, throw down some cash. Even better keep a tally of all the money you’re saving by making your own meals and not drinking. Especially if you live in New York you’ll see this add up. Then get yourself something nice.

Also, postscript for next December my brand is Talisker.

Easy Meal Prep Under 10 min and $20

Meal prep is one of the less glamorous elements of your fitness journey. Especially if you are new to taking control of your nutrition, making pounds of chicken, sautéing vegetables, while you burn rice to the bottom of the pot can seem like a kitchen destroying Sisyphean task. Instead of letting this take the spirit out of you I am going to provide some easy meal prep ideas in a series of blogs that will soon be a e-pamphlet.

First Question

“What level of coaching are you at?” Nutrition coaching is often divided into three levels of intensity and detail. Most people will never need to be at level 3, unless you plan to compete in bodybuilding or physique. Even then though most advanced athletes/dieters cannot realistically stay at level 3 without psychological and/or physical burnout. In this level everything is taken into account. You are even measuring asparagus spears, nothing is eaten that you do not measure or weigh first. Also, a level 3 trainee is most likely timing their meals around their workouts for optimized muscle growth or fat loss. An example of detail the majority of that day’s carbs would be eaten in a three hour window arounds workouts. Whey protein would be consumed following a workout because of its quick absorption rate and casein taken prior to bed because of its slow release. For most individuals you will never need to be at level 3.

Myself after about two months of  level 2  intensity and one month at  level 3.

Myself after about two months of level 2 intensity and one month at level 3.

Level 2, I will define as you are measuring calories but you are not striving for the same level of accuracy. Also, timing is not really an issue. A note on accuracy, most food labels are estimated to only be within the 20-30% accurate range to begin with. For a food item to be close to 100% accurate every item would need to be placed in a bomb calorimeter.

Level 1 is simply basic consciousness of what you are eating. At level 1 you simply use your fist to measure protein, palm for carbs & vegetables, and your thumb to estimate fat.

Three common items less than 20 dollars. Also, I recommend purchasing broccoli florets and not cuts.

Three common items less than 20 dollars. Also, I recommend purchasing broccoli florets and not cuts.

Four Meals Under Ten Minutes

For the level 3 trainee: divide the chicken into white meat and dark since you will enter them separately into your tracking app. Even if you are trying to cut I would recommend keeping the skin on at least the dark meat because of the vitamins. Next weigh four equal portions of each. Microwave the pre-packaged rice, use a spatula to divide each two serving packs into individual portions. Microwave your vegetables in a glass container and then divide those up. For the level two trainee, simply find in My Fitness Pal, or your chosen app, an entire rotisserie chicken then enter the serving as 0.25 of the whole chicken. The rice and vegetable set up is the same. If you are a level 1 trainee simply rip, shred the chicken up and use your eyeballs.

Cost Effective

This approach is not a only a great way for you to track your nutrition, but you can save considerable money. Especially if like me you live in New York City. I purchased all these items for under twenty bucks. The chicken was $7.99, two pre-cooked rice packs for $2.50 a piece, and two bags of broccoli for $2.49 a piece. I made four filling meals which in NYC would easily run $10-15 a piece. I chose not use oil on the rice and to keep the skin on the chicken for my fat calories. That being said each meal was still around 500 calories total. If you liked this article and would value more similar content please leave a comment below. Best of luck on your journey whatever your goals are. It will not happen overnight but probably will not take as long you think either. Be patient. strive to find satisfaction in the challenge and process.

Patience is not simply the ability to wait, but rather how we behave while we’re waiting.
— -Joyce Meyer

Note using the lids for each container to make it easier to measure and divide the portions, the finished product (far right).

FAQ's: When Is It Time To Switch Up My Routine

Knowing When it’s time to switch up your routine: the first two questions I have to ask are 1-“are you still experiencing gains/progress.” 2-“are you experiencing pain that is possible from an overuse injury.” The answer to the second question could be changing exercises. Exercises from different angles can hit the same muscles. But I like to think of the joints and angles of pressure put on them being like a drip of water on a stone, if the pressure and strain on the joints and bones is always at the same angle you might be wearing down that same spot over and over.

To the first question, “are you still experiencing gains?” If the answer is NO, Don’t immediately look to the workout itself, first think about other factors. Your workouts do not happen in a vacuum. You have all types of stress, and most likely inconsistencies in your recovery. I swear I can have an identical diet and training protocol from one week to another and let’s say one week I get 6 hours of sleep and the next I’m getting 8, I see significant differences. This example is highly subjective but I swear I see cuts and muscles more filled out with everything else identical but I’m just sleeping more l. In fact science supports this theory as well. So, don’t always look to just the workout, look at your whole human biological experience.

It might be time to mix it up if you’re not having fun anymore! If you’re not going to be a powerlifter you don’t necessarily have to straight bar bench press. Switch it up, depth jump push ups, TRX push ups, dumbbell work, and even the Jacobs Ladder hits the chest. If you aren’t going to be a powerlifter you don’t necessarily have to barbell squat. Everyone needs to do some sort of squat but the variation can change. My recommendation for general fitness is to cycle a different squat every 4 weeks unless someone has a specific goal of adding weight to a specific style. Personally I start a clients squat journey by teaching the front squat first. Reason being I feel this is the most intrinsically less risky and practical. Less risky because if form seriously breaks down the weight simply falls. More practical because many of my clients lift something up in front of them (heavy hag, object, or child) but rarely do they ever throw something on their back and squat it.

So to sum things up, it’s time to change things up in my opinion if you’re: hurting, not making progress, or bored. Other than that keep getting after it!

BOSU Shame

So rather than just saying a certain exercise or modality is stupid, which is easy (and fun), I have chosen to go into some depth as to why I feel the BOSU Ball Squat & deadlift should be viewed with scorn. English essayist and moralist Samuel Johnson said: “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” I would argue that saying a nonsense exercise challenges your core strength is the last refuge of an incompetent trainer. 


The Dirty Secret

A large portion of fitness “professionals” are “slash trainers,” meaning that they don’t really train themselves and aren’t passionate about the subject. They have okay-ish physiques (maybe), one of the easier to acquire certifications, and they have another passion that is the main focus of their lives. Or, hey, it might just be that the circus wasn’t hiring that day (my case) or that Burger King required too much math, so, “Let’s be a trainer.” These people can often be seen playing on their phones while their clients flail around doing something next to meaningless. The result is also that effective means of training, especially ones that are difficult to teach, are passed to the side for low risk and lower reward moves. If you don’t know how to effectively program or explain the efficacy of an exercise such as the barbell squat or deadlift you can always throw someone on a BOSU ball, make them feel entertained, and take your paycheck. 

Efficacy of Training Balance

In and of itself, this is the subject of numerous studies which are not less than conclusive. First off, I believe there is never a reason to squat or perform any exercise focused on muscular development on the rounded portion of the BOSU ball. This teaches faulty movement patterns, and nearly always forces the trainee to collapse their ankles.

There are more effective ways to train balance and prevent injury through challenging synergist muscles (ones that assist the main muscle acting). Also, these exercises I’m about to list are great at pointing out asymmetry that might exist in your musculature left versus right. These are exercises where the foot can still be active and stable and adapting the body to asymmetrical loads similar to how they might need to be handled in real life and sport. A few examples are exercises like rear foot elevated split squats (a.k.a Bulgarian split squats), off-set deadlifts, and suit case carries. An important distinction being that balance is found by reinforcing postural integrity, meaning keeping the ankle-knee-hip organized in line, against an outside force. Similar to how you would have to pick up a heavy weight with one arm but not allow that to collapse your posture. One of my favorite tests for this is to progress from one single leg touch, to single leg deadlifts, to single leg rotational throws.

“Like, Core Strength, Bro”

I’ve heard the argument that unstable surface training activates more core musculature, thus burning more calories. This, frankly, is bullshit, pretty good bullshit, but bullshit none-the-less. Weight loss is a product of work output being greater than calories in. More core musculature is used squatting your bodyweight on a barbell, or even more core challenging, front squatting. Properly taught strength moves provide much more core stimulus than completion of a balance problem. 

Performing a lift on a BOSU or Indo Board  might be challenging. But is it challenging because you are taxing the musculature you want to develop or is it just a coordination puzzle? Also, squats and deadlifts are effective because your body is challenged to generate force production. If you take away your ability to do so with an unstable surface you have now negated the purpose of the exercise.

If your goals are to lose weight or gain muscle figuring out how to use weights far-far beneath sub-maximal on an unstable surface is as relevant as your goals as devoting 30 minutes of your training session to juggling. Often performing exercises on an unstable surface is used in physical therapy. I personally know this from rehabbing a severe tear of ligaments in my ankle. Physical therapy exercises have never been intended to drive aesthetic or performance adaptations. Which is what 99% of personal training clients are looking for and largely skewed towards the first of those two stated goals.

The Fallacy of Functionality

The term functional has become a bit of meme in fitness circles. In order for something to be functional it must have a function.  Are you going to be playing your sport on a wobbly surface or fighting someone in a row boat? I’ve regrettably seen hang cleans performed on unstable surfaces by competitive athletes. What is the purpose of the hang clean? It is to teach force production through triple extension. But when this exercise is performed on an unstable surface the weights that must be used are now ones that the athlete could probably bicep curl. So not only are you are practicing force production on a surface that does not mimic the field of play, you are now using weights that won’t drive the desired adaptation. 


I would encourage you to be ruthless in your exercise selection, if you cannot immediately and without doubt identify the purpose of an exercise in your routine, cut it. For the majority of you out there, you are balancing the gym with the rest of your life and you cannot afford fluff or modalities of dubious value. For competitive athletes, every second wasted on something that doesn’t produce quantifiable results could be used in recovery or increasing skill.  Remember it’s intelligent intensity that gets you the results you deserve. 


Respect for the Beginner


It’s natural for us as humans to want to compare, rate and rank. Now, let’s say you’ve been boxing and training for about a year. You now crave a good training session. The next few days after class your body no longer feels like it was hit by a car and will revolt against you any moment. Another human tendency, and one of our less admirable ones, is to gain a feeling of superiority by comparing ourselves to those less skilled. Remember you will always be a beginner compared to someone else out there.

Thailand Lessons

In Thailand over the course of 4 months I lived in a room underneath the gym at Sitsongpeenong Muay Thai Camp. I showed up to Sitsonpeenong with a couple of decades of experience, in shape (but still fat by Thailand standards), and 20 fights under my belt. However, compared to many of the Thai 16 year olds there, who will already have close to 100 professional bouts at that age, I was a rank novice. Also, fighters in camps such as the one I was at are usually there because there is no other choice for them and their family. Despite sweating all over the place, being comparatively a beginner with motivations most likely perplexing to someone fighting for survival, I was never treated with anything but respect. I strive to, although not always successfully, to remember this lesson in humility and graciousness.  

Back to New York

So, back to New York and group boxing classes. Even though you are now finding a “groove” there will be times when your motivation begins to flag. You might know exactly what to do at this point. “Jab,” “cross,” “slip,” and “weave,” are now all part of your vocabulary. You have all the right gear, you have a gym community, your comfort level is higher, yet still sometimes you might find it difficult to make it to the gym. Take a moment and think how much more of a challenge it is for someone new. Someone who feels awkward, doesn’t know anyone, and isn’t speaking the language yet. 

It’s Takes a lot of Heart to Begin

There is a difference between knowing because you’ve experienced something and knowing because you have been told something. If you have been in shape before, or used to be an athlete, you have a tremendous advantage over a beginner. You truly know that the results can and will happen with work, fuel, rest. The true beginner is venturing into uncharted territory with their body. In many ways what they are do is the more than just difficult, it’s courageous. They deserve our respect.

The Bloody Toothbrush Analogy

Regular exercise should be a habit. I understand that’s in an ideal world. Here’s a quick question: If you had a %90 percent chance of dying tomorrow what habits would you still keep? You would probably still want clean teeth, I’m guessing at least. So, take this in mind: It is purported by the historian Herodotus that the 300 Spartans (those people Kayne thinks are the Romans) passed time before the battle of Thermopylae by doing calisthenics, even though they were confident of impending death the next day. I’m not saying that level of exercise habit is realistic for most of us. However, just maybe skipping a workout to wait for January 1st or because Christmas is two days away is bullshit (especially in comparison).    

I try to remember that I enjoy working out, I always have. More so than enjoying it I see it as a non-negotiable. Exercise, if not actual structured training, is in the category of brushing my teeth. Now I try to be objective and remember to many people physical fitness is less like that and say more like say my Spanish CDs that are sitting around and might get vigorous use right before the possibility of a trip but otherwise lay unused. I mean, I haven’t finished them, and I bought them when people actually bought CDs!

Now to the bloody toothbrush analogy, I’m sure that brings up a lovely mental image, but I’m using it to drive home a point: exercise is like brushing your teeth. Steady and consistent wins the day, NOT “Beast Mode,” “training INSANE,” or other such silliness. If you skipped brushing your teeth for 3-4 minutes a day for 10 days would you try and catch up with a 40 min session of vigorous brushing? Basically when an untrained person comes up to me and says “I just started exercising and I’m doing 2 sessions a day, I can hardly move, it’s great!” My initial reaction would be the same as someone coming up to me with a bloody smile saying “just brushed for 2 hours, no cavities for this guy!” Yes, because you’re not going to have teeth soon. 

It’s not glamorous to start with modest goals. Also, much like sleep, you cannot back log exercise. Regular exercise, even 3 times 15 minutes a week, is great. I understand It’s not always glamorous to start with modest and achievable goals. However, I always cringe someone who has not been running in years, and is usually overweight, tells me they will be running a full marathon in 2 months. But that sounds so much more alluring than just committing to adopting better habits and sustained improvement over a lifetime. Start small. Start smart. If you can’t access or afford a knowledgable coach use resources that are science backed. Also, as a general rule gravitate towards the advice of those who aren’t trying to sell you a machine or product (especially those that seem too good to be true). It’s not glamorous. However, it also shouldn’t be expensive or that complicated. Start with a routine that is above all sustainable for life and minimize your visits to the orthopedic surgeon. 


Measuring Progress Versus Constant Variation

In this blog post I’m going to specifically focus on strength exercises and providing a counter point to proponents of constantly changing them, i.e. the good ole “muscle confusion” crowd. Although I am going to discuss strength exercises what I’m saying holds true for conditioning and sports as well. I would assume Michael Phelps probably swims more than once a week. Do you think his muscles are “confused” when he’s in the pool? Whether it's Usain Bolt at the track, or Gennady Golovkin on a heavy bag, athletes strive to perfect similar movements day in and day out. The best of them also include some cross training to balance out their bodies and prevent repetitive motion injuries. If you want the body of a well conditioned athlete, you should probably train like one. 


Perfect is not attainable, excellence is - but we will never be truly perfect at anything worthwhile. You will never “outgrow” the barbell squat, deadlift, overhead press, pull-up, etc. There will always be tweaks to get more out of the core lifts and movements. You can always gain by having a coach look at your benchpress. Once you start doing these “simple” movements you realize how infinitely layered mastering them becomes.  The statement that you “never outgrow the basics” is universally excepted by athletes in sports. However, sometimes I see this being forgotten in the gym. What are the basics? Universally speaking the movements (notice I said movements NOT muscle) of the squat, hip-hinge, push, and pull. 


Quick disclaimer, a trainee might not be ready for these movements. In this article I'm specifically speaking about in shape, uninjured, reasonably fit clientele. A good deadlift, loaded carries (the farmer’s walk for example), and a good squat are true fitness “game changers.” Silly things done on a BOSU ball are not, even if your goal is weight loss. Weight loss is a condition of more work being done than calories entering the body, and very few exercises cause the body to work more than these three for example. However, these exercises take focus to learn. To be honest, a lot of you (not “you” you but that collective “you”) have the attention span of a gold fish. It’s easier to keep a low-commitment client “entertained” if things are constantly changing. 

Also, squats and deadlifts in particular take an experienced coach to teach. Not just someone who is the “rep-counter/gym babysitter” type trainer. Also, like anything rewarding, there is risk involved. If a trainer is only concerned with just making sure you are there to keep paying for sessions, your workouts might primarily be comprised of only low-risk and lower reward “entertaining” exercises. I see the same thing being done with boxing training. Clients being taught choreographed pad-work routines before they are anywhere near fundamentally sound to keep them entertained.


Most well thought out training programs include a phase that is some sort of General Physical Preparedness(GPP). At the base of the training pyramid is a period of acclimation to training, the body should be challenged in different ranges of motions, differing energy systems and rep-ranges. Accessory work, ("what is accessory work?" is a discussion for another time), is a perfect time to include some variation to keep things fresh. Also, there can be variation with in the movement itself (goblet squat versus barbell back squat for example). Changing rep schemes and rest periods can also be manipulated to keep things fresh. 


Training needs some metric to gauge progress: how many punches you can throw in a minute, mile run time, bench/squat/pull/press numbers. There is a place for variety. However, if you are constantly changing exercises and don’t have quantifiable numbers measure progress you will always be just “exercising” and never training.