Quick Tip: Top 10 Worst Snack Foods

Spoiler alert: some of your favorite snacks might be on this list. If they are, that means we’ll want to replace one of them with something that’s going to give your arteries a bit more longevity.

1. Chocolate-Coated Doughnuts, Mini Doughnuts and Snack Cakes – Now I can’t lie, every time I go to Dunkin’ Doughnuts I want to grab a bag of the chocolate munchkins just as much as the next person, but these little guys have even more saturated fats than any other type of snack food!

2. Snack Pies – We all love ‘em and I’m pretty sure they even say “great snack” on the wrapper, and you know what…it is a “great snack!” Well, as long as great snack means high in calories, total fat, saturated fat and sugar, and low in protein, fiber and other healthy nutrients. So, if that’s the case, dig in!

3. Mega-Butter or “Movie Theater” Microwave Popcorn – This is one of the few products that still has trans fat. A bag popped contains about 4-5 grams of trans fat. On movie night, tell your significant other to pass over some sweet potato chips instead.

4. Regular Chips and Cheetos – This goes out to every college girl that I know- Cheetos Flamin’ Hots are not the way to go! Some food for thought, a 2-ounce bag contains 320 calories, 22 grams of total fat, 3 grams of saturated fat and 500 mg of sodium. Want to know how to avoid getting that freshman 15-35? Stop eating these!

5. Packaged Frozen Snacks – I know we love hot pockets, and grabbing a toaster strudel in the morning has been getting you off on the right foot, but to be honest with you, these just suck. These frozen snacks are high in calories, high in saturated fats, high in sodium, and if you think these are good for you, you might actually be high.

6. Chicken Nuggets – I know what you’re thinking, “But Sergio, these are full of protein!” And though that’s true, lets be honest, you can get it from a source that doesn’t have high amounts of fat, saturated fat and sodium.

7. Cheese and Club Crackers – If you’re eating cheese and crackers solo, you’re probably going to make a decent dent in the box. That’s just the nature of the beast. And with that being said, this snack is low in everything good (protein, fiber) but high in everything you don’t need (fat, saturated fat, sodium), and the dairy from the cheese isn’t benefiting your body either. Next time you’re at a soirée, pass on these.

8. Milk and Cookies – I’ll be the first to say that I didn’t want to put these on the list because of how much I love cookies. BUT! The truth is that this snack is horrible. The cookies are on the same lines as the snack cakes that are high in saturated fats and sugars, and they lack any type of nutritional value. The milk is a dairy product that your body doesn’t need and it’s also high in fats. And if you think that you can get a lot of calcium from a glass of milk, you can actually get more from a cup of spinach. Just ask Popeye!

9. Candy – There is no nutritional value in sugar.

10. Bagel and cream cheese – The bagel is always something that people like as their “go-to” snack or meal, and this is a mistake. Bagels, for the most part, are made up of processed white flour (gluten) that quickly turns into sugar in the body. And while bagels are typically are low in saturated fats, as soon as we pile on that cream cheese, things go from bad to worse. You just end up adding more saturated fats and sodium. Bagels are not the quick fix you’re looking for!

Want to know what to eat instead? Look out tomorrow for our top 10 best snack alternatives!

Fat-Burning Post-Cheat Leg Workout from Hell

While I’m still pursuing my target of 4% bodyfat by April 15 for the end of the AST Ultimate Challenge, I indulged one too many times over the weekend (vanilla bean coconut ice cream and half a bag of gluten-free oreos on Friday night, then pizza, cookies and brownies at a bar mitzvah party on Saturday night). One of our big suggestions for recovering from cheats is to always train the day afterward, and to make it a very intense session with lots of reps and little rest. This is what I came up with:

First Exercise – Barbell Squats

No good repentance workout is complete without some sort of squat, and I went with the classic squat. Not paired with anything, just pyramided sets of 10 reps with about 60-75 seconds of rest in between each set, until I hit my last set and did a set of breathing squats. Breathing squats are where you take what you could normally do for 10 or 12 reps, and go for 20 reps, taking 3 deep breaths at the top in between each rep. You essentially take 10 seconds of rest in between each rep, and the whole thing takes several minutes to get through. I didn’t quite make it to 20 but made it to 17 with 185lbs (20lbs over my current bodyweight).

Superset – Glute/Ham Raises and Drop-Thru Split Squats

I did the glute/ham raises starting with my legs straight and torso perpendicular to the floor (almost like a traditional hyperextension) and then took them all the way up for sets of 12 with added dumbbell weight, then went to drop-thru split squats (both feet elevated on platforms so that the knee can “drop thru” where the floor would normally be), also for sets of 12. I absolutely HATE drop-thru split squats as the burning in the quads and glutes gets so intense that I need a fire extinguisher to put it out afterwards. 3 rounds each with 60 seconds of rest in between each exercise.

Finisher – Prowler sprints

Just awful. 3 sprints of 80 yards with 110lbs on the Prowler with as little rest as I could handle. The first sprint actually looked like I was running, but it quickly degenerated into something resembling a motivated hobble.

From start to finish it took less than 30 minutes but I’ll be feeling it for a few more days.

Then Vs. Now: Two Different Approaches to Muscle Gain

As long as I have been training with weights (since I turned 14 years old, so over 15 years now), my biggest priority has been increasing muscle mass.  The first day I spent in the weight room, I was 5’7″ and 108lbs, and got stuck trying to bench press an empty Olympic barbell.  Unfortunately, this was also during a period in the 90’s when the “skater look” (baggy pants with oversized leg openings, two-sizes-too-large t-shirts, and wallets with chains attached to them) was popular, which made my frame (or lack of one) even worse.

Tragically, I couldn't find any pics of me in high school, but picture a skeleton in these and you have the idea.

So that very same day, after getting stapled under that bar, I went to Waldenbooks and bought my first Muscle & Fitness magazine, that had nothing but the abs of a very ripped male and female on the front cover, and I devoured every bit of information I could find in that magazine, as well as countless other issues over the next 5 years. In fact, from 1997 to 2003, almost all of my knowledge about training was pulled from issues of Muscle & Fitness, Flex Magazine, MuscleMag, and whatever else I could find, as well as the “Bible of bodybuilding,” Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding.

Don't lie, there's a copy on your bookshelf right now.

And it worked well enough – in the first year of training I went from 108lbs to 132lbs and actually had something other than bone where my pecs should be for the first time ever. Now, though, looking back, the simple process of puberty would probably have been enough to add at least 15 or 20lbs. So whether or not it really “worked” is actually up for debate.

Over the next handful of years I went up to almost 185lbs, but in clothing never really looked like I worked out, and the best term for my physique would still be “skinny-fat.” Even though I followed all of the “rules” those magazines told me to – I trained every body part once a week using all of the routines that the pros said they used, and ate exactly what the magazines said to eat – chicken, canned tuna, oatmeal, potatoes, pasta, and I drank a gallon of whole milk a day for over a year straight. But I still had no abs, and still didn’t look like I worked out.

So I gave up on bodybuilding for a while and blamed my “bad genetics,” and tried to focus more on powerlifting, where it’s okay and even beneficial to carry extra fat, where cardio is a four-letter word, but even then I struggled to make progress. My strength level probably wouldn’t put me in the top 500 in my weight class nationally, and the fat just kept accumulating.

Then, in early 2010, I was introduced to BioSignature Modulation and Charles Poliquin. I had read a lot of Charles’ writing on T-Nation.com, but had never really taken anything to heart and just figured that, while I was very good at getting all of my clients in shape, I would just play the “genetics” card whenever it came to my own appearance.

Over the next several years, I began to understand that blaming what my parents gave me (or didn’t give me) was just a cop-out, and that instead of blaming my genes, I should be embracing them. Carbs make me fat? Then get rid of them. The first time I met Charles in person, he told me, “for the next six months, the closest you should get to carbs of any kind is through photographs.” For a few months, I scoffed at the idea, and continued to plug away. Eventually, I started removing things like dairy and gluten, but still didn’t shy from fruit or rice, and my post-workout shake still had about 40 grams of protein and 150 grams of carbs.  I looked a little better, but nothing dramatic, and stayed around 15-16% bodyfat on average.

Then, I made a decision to go “all-in” on Charles’ recommendations for somebody with my body type, which include:

  • High protein and vegetable intake (most days over 200g of protein and 1lb of veggies or more)
  • Low-carb/no-carb with the exception of a weekly cheat meal
  • Using basic supplements like a multi, fish oil, HCL, D3, zinc and magnesium to fill in nutritional deficiencies
  • Ditch classic bodybuilding splits for frequent but short full-body training sessions with big movements
  • Use insulin-regulating supplements such as Insulinomics, Fenuplex and Glucose Disposal

The changes were very immediate.  The first time I did the 14-day low carb boot camp I lost 3.8% bodyfat and gained 6lbs of lean mass.  Of course, after about a month, I started allowing a few carbs back in (although much less than before) and increased my cheat meal frequency from once a week to twice a week.  However, I was still able to maintain at right around 12% bodyfat (as opposed to the 16% I had been prior) with relatively little effort.

Now, to coincide with AST’s 2012 Ultimate Challenge, I am working toward 4% bodyfat for a photo shoot we’re doing at the gym in mid-April, and am staying very low-carb/no-carb throughout, based on Poliquin’s original recommendations.  In the first month, I dropped over 3% bodyfat and gained 12lbs of lean mass.  While I can count on one hand the number of carbs I’ve had since the beginning of January, I have done no cardio other than what my training sessions provide.

The point?  Perhaps instead of blaming your genetics, it’s time to embrace them and defy convention.


Program Review: German Body Comp for Athletes

There are a few things that I know to be true about most athletes:

  • They tend to require lots of short, explosive movements
  • They perform better with less fat on their bodies

While there are definitely exceptions to the above rules (for example, marathoners and sumo wrestlers), these are plenty that fit the rule – martial artists, gymnasts, football players (particularly skill positions), track and field athletes, the list goes on and on.  So when choosing training programs for athletes, it’s important to consider what impact it has on one or both of those characteristics.

One program that we have found to be extremely effective is Charles Poliquin’s German Body Comp for Athletes program.  It’s a progression on the original German Body Comp (or GBC) program, which is a fat-loss program designed for the general population with emphasis on full-body training session that use big movements, high reps and short rest periods.  However, the Athletes version of the program makes some modifications to help balance maintaining or increasing athleticism with improving body composition.

For example, each day of the 4-day split in the program begins with some variation of an Olympic lift.  Because of their technical difficulty, Olympic lifts are usually best left out of programs for your average Joe or Jane, but are incorporated here because of their ability to generate power without adding excessive amounts of body mass (also known as relative strength).  In general, the repetitions are kept lower than usual to emphasize development of fast-twitch muscle fibers that are important to excel in most sports.

The important thing to note with this program is that there is room to vary things a bit – if you know what you’re doing, it can be used more as a template than as a “do as written or it won’t work” setup, and it’s quite easy to swap out variations on Olympic lifts, squats, pullups and presses that comprise the core of the program.  Charles’ personal recommendation is to stay on it no longer than 6 weeks, and I’ve found that between 4 and 6 weeks is best, depending on recovery abilities.

For the original article direct from Charles himself, click here.