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5 Ways to Rapidly Increase Your Pull-ups & Chin-ups

By John Sifferman, Author of The Pull-up Solution

Pull-ups and chin-ups are a couple of the best upper body exercises for strength and muscle building. They help build and strengthen your back, biceps, forearms, shoulders, and core. They can also help restore mobility and function at your shoulders, balance out your upper body muscle development, and even improve your posture, among other benefits.

Bodybuilders swear by them for back and bicep development, and powerlifters use them to balance out their bench pressing, among other things. Most experts agree that if you do any strength training, and especially if you bench press often, you should also be doing pull-ups regularly.

Now, pull-ups and chin-ups deliver a lot of benefits, but they are really hard! And many people – even those with a lot of training experience – struggle to do even one proper rep.

So, in this article, I’ll give you five ways to do more pull-ups – whether you’re trying to get your first deadhang pull-up with proper form, or trying to break a plateau to hit 10-20 reps, or more.

If you put these ideas to use, you’ll be doing more pull-ups sooner than you think.

1. Train pull-ups as often as you can, but not too hard, and never to muscle failure.

Whether you can do zero pull-ups or more than twenty reps, the fastest way to get better at them is to practice as frequently as possible at a moderate intensity, which is why the Grease The Groove method is a perfect fit for the pull-up trainee.

Here’s how to Grease The Groove to improve your pull-ups.

• Perform a moderate intensity set of pull-ups several times per day, several days per week (having access to a pull-up bar or another place to do your reps throughout the day is a must)

• Pick a repetition amount that falls between 40-80% of your maximum reps (e.g. if you can do 10 pull-ups, do sets of 4-8 reps)

• Do at least 3-5 sets, and up to 10 or more total sets throughout the day

• Allow plenty of rest between sets (e.g. 15-60+ minutes)

• Avoid muscle failure and don’t train to exhaustion

• Train as often as you can fully recover, at least 4 and no more than 6 days per week

• Increase the number of pull-ups you complete every day you train to increase your total training volume each week (i.e. do slightly more sets and/or reps every workout)

In other words: frequent, gradually-progressive practice, at a sub-maximal intensity, and always with proper form. This is a perfect formula for rapid, short-term results. And it’s why many people are able to dramatically increase their pull-ups and chin-ups with the Grease The Groove method.

2. Match your pull-up exercises to your unique needs, goals and conditioning level.

First, you’ll want to decide if you’d like to focus on pull-ups, chin-ups, or neutral-grip pull-ups. Each variation has it’s own pros and cons. Pull-ups focus more on the lats (i.e. back), while chin-ups focus more on the biceps (i.e. arms). Neutral-grip pull-ups recruit more overall musculature and are also easier on the shoulders. So, choose the one that makes the most sense or that is easiest for you to perform. And remember, that you can and should make changes for variety in the future.

Also, generally speaking, you’ll want to focus on the most advanced pull-up exercise that you can perform with good technique. So, if you can do strict, deadhang pull-ups with good technique, you should. But if you can’t, you should do the closest progression you can manage.

How to work up to your first pull-up

Train with the following exercises to help work up to standard pull-ups:

Step 1) Dead Hangs – Hold the bottom, hanging position with elbows locked and shoulders packed for time. This exercise is great for people who have trouble with the bottom range of motion (i.e. starting the pull-up).

Step 2) Flexed-Arm Hangs – Hold the top position for time with your chin over the bar and elbows in tight. This exercise is great for those who struggle to get their chin over the bar.

Step 3) Negative Pull-ups – Perform only the eccentric portion of the exercise (i.e. just lowering yourself down, under control). Negative reps are a great strategy for both building muscle and increasing reps – for beginners and advanced trainees alike.

Step 4) Assisted Pull-ups – You can perform assisted pull-ups and chin-ups by

  • using a resistance band to support some of your weight
  • using a step or bench to push off from with your feet
  • jumping just enough to help get your chin over the bar
  • having a partner help you complete your reps by pushing on your mid-back or supporting your ankles

By choosing the best pull-up exercises for your goals and conditioning level, you’ll find the “sweet spot” to maximize your results.

3. Use targeted strategies to boost results.

There are many helpful techniques to improve your results. Here are a handful of them.

Drop Sets – Do a set of pull-ups, then immediately (i.e. without resting) perform a set of assisted pull-ups, then immediately perform a set of negative pull-ups, then immediately hold a flexed arm hang, then immediately perform a deadhang.

Rest Pauses – After you’ve finished a set of pull-ups (e.g. usually your last set for the day), rest for 5-10 seconds and then perform another set. Continue until you can no longer perform any reps with proper form after resting for 10 seconds.

Isometrics – Hold a specific position in the pull-up exercise that gives you trouble for time (e.g. top, middle, or bottom position), such as with the flexed-arm hang and deadhang exercises.

Partial Reps – If you have trouble getting out of the bottom position or into the top position, do partial reps to strengthen that specific range of motion.

Multiple grips – By varying your grips on the pull-up bar, you’ll target different areas of your muscles and train them in different ways, which will result in more well-rounded strength and balanced muscle development.

4. Train with the Big 3 pull-up workouts.

If you look at almost every pull-ups workout program, you’re going to find a few different kinds of workouts that are usually included. It’s because they’re simple and they work.

So, a good basic pull-up workout program would be to do the following three workouts on non-consecutive days every week (e.g. Monday, Wednesday, Friday). There are more effective programs, of course. But a simple program like this, done with a high level of effort, can product great results.

Pull-up Workout 1 (Monday) – Pull-up Ladder Workouts

Instructions: Do one pull-up, then rest for about 10 seconds. Do two pull-ups, then rest for about 20 seconds. And continue this progression until you max out and can’t complete the next level. Then work your way back down the ladder by doing one less repetition each set.

For example:

Set 1: 1 rep
Set 2: 2 reps
Set 3: 3 reps
Set 4: 4 reps
Set 5: 5 reps
Set 6: 5 reps (max – missed 6th rep)
Set 7: 4 reps
Set 8: 3 reps
Set 9: 2 reps
Set 10: 1 rep

Pull-up Workout 2 (Wednesday) – Pull-ups Max Effort Workout

Instructions: After a warmup, complete 3-5 max or near-max sets of pull-ups, gradually increasing your intensity each set. Rest 2-3 minutes between sets.

For example:

Set 1: 80% of max reps
Set 2: 85% of max reps
Set 3: 90% of max reps
Set 4: 95% of max reps
Set 5: 100% of max reps

Pull-up Workout 3 (Friday) – Pull-ups Endurance Workout

Instructions: Select a repetition number that’s approximately half of your maximum ability. So, if you can do 10 pull-ups during a test, your number is 5 reps. Complete 10-20 sets, resting no more than 30 seconds between sets.

For example:

Set 1: 5 reps
Set 2: 5 reps
Set 3: 5 reps
Set 4: 5 reps
Set 5: 5 reps
Set 6: 5 reps
Set 7: 5 reps
Set 8: 5 reps
Set 9: 5 reps
Set 10: 5 reps

These three pull-up workouts are simple and brutal, and will quickly help you increase your pull-up numbers.

5. Tweak your technique to maximize strength and performance.

You’d be surprised how many people increase their pull-up strength and performance instantly by simply making changes to their technique. A small adjustment in your hand positioning, or finally learning how to recruit your lats or activate your core can increase your reps immediately.

So, make sure you’re using proper form that draws on the strength of your entire body – not just your back and bicep muscles. In other words, stop doing sloppy, mindless pull-ups.

8 Tips to Correct Common Pull-up and Chin-up Mistakes

Instant improvements are often made by correcting the following mistakes:

  • Wrap your thumbs around the bar on the same side as your fingers (instead of opposite your fingers)
  • Place your hands slightly outside of shoulder width on the bar
  • Maintain a straight (i.e. neutral) wrist while hanging from the pull-up bar (do not over-flex your wrists)
  • Initiate each rep by retracting your shoulders down onto your torso (i.e. stabilizing them) and keep them packed down throughout the full range of motion
  • Keep your elbows in tight alongside your ribs instead of flared out to the sides
  • Activate your core with a strong exhale during the concentric portion of the exercise (i.e. pulling yourself up), and inhale passively as you lower back down
  • Squeeze your glutes and thighs hard during each rep
  • Lengthen your spine by lifting with the crown of your head (i.e. instead of reaching with your chin) and tucking your tailbone slightly

Here’s a video that will walk you through the finer details of optimal pull-up technique. Even if you’re been doing pull-ups for a long time, I think you’ll learn some new things from this video. Once you’ve gotten your form honed in, pull-ups get a lot easier.

There’s no secret to getting better at pull-ups.

You’ve just have to train smart and put in the work. If you’re consistent, you should start seeing results within 1-2 weeks. And many people are amazed at how much they can boost their reps after just a month of focused training.

So, if YOU would like to dominate the pull-up bar, put some of these ideas into action today, and get started on a good program ASAP.

Want to do More Pull-ups?

Click Here to Learn How To Rapidly Increase Your Pull-up & Chin-up Numbers In 3 Months Or Less


About the Author

John Sifferman is a health-first fitness coach and the author of  The Pull-up Solution: The Complete Pull-up and Chin-up Training System, which helps people rapidly increase their pull-up numbers in three months or less. You can learn how John dramatically improved his pull-up performance and has helped thousands of people do the same with a unique twist on pull-up training at his website

The Subconscious Eater (Part 3) Controlling Our Appetite & FAKE Food Ingredients

By Brian Klepacki, MS, CISSN, CSCS

The first area in which we need to look into is exercise.

Exercise is widely regarded as one of the most valuable components of behavior that can influence weight loss or gain and therefore help in the prevention and management of weight related diseases.

Subsequently, long-term studies show a clear dose-related effect of exercise on body weight. However, there is a suspicion, particularly fueled by media reports, that exercise serves to increase hunger and drive up food intake thereby quashing the energy expended through activity.

Not everyone performing regular exercise will lose weight and several studies have demonstrated a huge individual irregularity in the response to exercise regimes. Is this a genetics thing?

First, physical activity through the expenditure of energy will influence the energy balance equation with the potential to generate an energy deficit. However, energy expenditure also influences the control of appetite and energy intake. This interaction means that the prediction of a resulting shift in energy balance, and therefore weight change, will be complicated and nearly impossible today.

In changing energy intake, exercise will impact on the mechanisms controlling appetite. It is becoming recognized that the major influences on the expression of appetite arise from fat-free mass and fat mass, resting metabolic rate, gastric adjustment to ingested food, changes in insulin, ghrelin, cholecystokinin, glucagon-like peptide-1 and Peptide YY, and leptin.

There is evidence that exercise will influence all of these components that, in turn, will influence the drive to eat through the modulation of physical hunger. The specific actions of exercise on each physiological component will vary in strength from person to person and with the intensity and duration of exercise concluding that individual responses to exercise and appetite suppression will be highly variable and difficult to predict [11].

Another area to turn our attention towards is the world of chemical additives and artificial ingredients.

With the increasing use of processed foods since the 19th century, food additives and artificial ingredients are more widely used today than ever before. Many countries do regulate their use to an extent but it is still a controversial topic for most.

For example, boric acid was widely used as a food preservative from the 1870s to the 1920s but was banned after World War I due to its toxicity, as demonstrated in animal and human studies. During World War II, the urgent need for cheap, available food preservatives led to it being used again, but it was finally banned in the 1950s.
Situations like this led to a general mistrust of food additives that has carried over to today, and this mistrust back then led to the conclusion that only additives that are known to be safe should be used in foods.

In the United States, this led to the adoption of the Delaney clause, an amendment to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938, stating that no carcinogenic substances may be used as food additives.

Today The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) maintains a list of over 3,000 ingredients in its food additive database.

Right off the bat I know you can probably see where my next move is going to be and you are dead right. To me, 3,000 of anything is a lot.

Now 3,000 active additive ingredients that are commonly used in the food and drinks we consume everyday scares the living $h*t out of me. Excuse me for saying that but that’s the honest truth.

There’s no way you or I can know everything about all 3,000 of those chemicals but there are some players that have a stronger place in the game and here they are:

• Monosodium glutamate (MSG)

MSG triggers your pancreas to release insulin, which makes you feel hungry. Furthermore, the flavor of MSG tricks your brain into believing you’re eating a meal high in nourishing protein. When your body does not receive what it was promised, your hunger level increases. MSG has also been shown to have a negative impact on your hypothalamus, which regulates leptin, the hormone that lets you know when you’ve had enough to eat.

•Artificial sweeteners

According to an article published by Neuroscience [12], several large-scale studies have found a positive link between the use of artificial sweeteners and weight gain. One such study, conducted by the American Cancer Society, revealed that among the 78,694 women studied, 7.1% of those who used artificial sweeteners regularly gained weight compared to non-users with an initial matched weight.

• Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil

Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil is made by reacting vegetable oil with hydrogen. When this occurs, the level of polyunsaturated oils (good fat) is reduced and trans fats are created. Trans fats can be found in foods such as vegetable shortening, some margarines, crackers, candies, baked goods, cookies, snack foods, fried foods, salad dressings, and many processed foods. They are associated with heart disease, breast and colon cancer, atherosclerosis and elevated cholesterol.

• BHA and BHT

BHA and BHT block the process of oil rancidity, which occurs when oils age, are exposed to light, or have repeated exposure to air. These additives seem to affect sleep and appetite, and have been associated with liver and kidney damage, baldness, behavioral problems, cancer, fetal abnormalities, and growth retardation.

• Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

GMOs are plants or animals that have had their DNA modified. In the US, the majority of the corn, soybean, cotton, and canola crops are now genetically modified, and one or more of these can be found in nearly every processed food. The problem with this is that there is no mandatory safety testing done by the FDA on GMOs, and thus there is no clear proof that these foods are safe. Testing that has been done in the past has shown GMOs can increase food toxicity, allergy susceptibility, immune suppression, resistance to antibiotics, and the incidence of cancer.

And that was only 5 of 3,000. A word of caution when choosing foods: if the list of ingredients on a package is long, there are probably a lot of chemical additives in the product. It’s best to avoid these foods, not only because of the individual effects of the additives, but also because of the unknown health effects of combinations of food additives.

Also, US Federal Regulations doesn’t require full disclosure on product labels. The only way to avoid dangerous food additives is to eat whole, naturally grown, organic food.

In summary, a large percentage of the population will simply overeat from emotions alone. Emotions are an extension of our DNA and also in a sense force us to perceive past experiences as well as current ones in a way that makes us feel comfortable and in control.

Since our emotions drive the way we make decisions and the process of how we execute those decisions, it can be safe to conclude that no matter what we try to do to circumvent the bad choices we make, nothing will work long-term. Especially if we don’t find a way to control how to manage or possibly change our emotions first.

We can give a list of 100 things to do to curb your appetite or suppress your hunger but if that individual is emotionally tied to a habit and is not comfortable in changing, those 100 things are pointless in the long run. Sure they might try one or two but there’s a good chance they will revert to their old ways.

So the million dollar question(s): is it physiological or do emotions affect us feeling hungry? Is it habits? Is the hunger real? Is it the chemicals we’re addicted to in the foods?

Your answer is yes. It’s all of the above. And yes it’s beyond complicated and way beyond everyone’s scope of knowledge with finding the exact solution to control cravings, suppress hunger and curb our appetite.

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Additional links:

Facts About Appetite Suppressants

Our Moods, Our Foods – The messy relationship between how we feel and what we eat

What Happens to Your Brain When You Eat Junk Food

The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food (long read but very interesting)

Leptin, ghrelin, and weight loss.

Eat Well. Move Well. Live Well.



The Subconscious Eater (Part 2) Our Emotional Connection to Food

By Brian Klepacki, MS, CISSN, CSCS

Despite our best intentions, we still make bad choices when it comes to food.

One of the primary reasons is emotional eating. Like I mentioned above, obesity is a global epidemic amongst adults, children and teens. In the world of comfort and plenty, we’ve completely lost touch with our bodies’ needs, and have instead become all too fixated to our wants.

Many of us eat for reasons other than to nourish our bodies or even to enjoy one of life’s pleasures. To understand why we overeat, it’s valuable to identify what the emotions are that lead us to mindlessly snack, overindulge, or binge. Are these feelings familiar? Do they bring up any memories or remind us of ways we felt in our past?

Do our patterns of eating remind us of ways we saw our parents use food or other substances? Or conversely, might our actions seem like a reaction to ways we saw our parents use food or beverages?

Let’s make sure we are on the same page here and this should be broadcasted to everyone everywhere: we eat so that the highly complex machinery of our bodies can continue to function and support us as we go about our day-to-day lives.

But yet we often turn to food for other reasons: to relieve loneliness or boredom or to alleviate stress or depression – (And it’s not uncommon for us to use the excuse of a happy occasion to celebrate with food and drink that’s not good for us…think about the holidays).

Once you start using food as a crutch, you initiate a cycle of emotional eating that often leads to poor health, weight gain, and eventually depression.

Emotional eating is a danger to all of us! But if you start to recognize a pattern in your behavior, like always overeating after a stressful day at work or bingeing whenever you have relationship problems, you need to find a way to address the underlying problems in a way that is not harmful to you.

Signs (emotions) of binge eating [9]:

• Lack of control once one begins to eat
• Depression
• Grief
• Anxiety
• Shame
• Disgust or self-hatred about eating behaviors

Emotional hunger can be powerful. As a result, it’s easy to mistake it for physical hunger. But here are a few clues you can use to differentiate between physical and emotional hunger.

Emotional hunger comes on suddenly. It hits you in an instant and feels overwhelming and urgent. Physical hunger comes on more gradually. The urge to eat doesn’t feel as dire or demand instant satisfaction.

Emotional hunger craves specific comfort foods. When you’re physically hungry, almost anything sounds good—including healthy stuff like vegetables. But emotional hunger craves fatty foods or sugary snacks that provide an instant rush.

Emotional hunger often leads to mindless eating. Before you know it, you’ve eaten a whole bag of chips or a sleeve of cookies without really paying attention or fully enjoying it. When you’re eating in response to physical hunger, you’re typically more aware of what you’re doing.

Emotional hunger isn’t satisfied once you’re full. You keep wanting more and more, often eating until you’re uncomfortably stuffed. Physical hunger, on the other hand, doesn’t need to be stuffed. You feel satisfied when your stomach is full.

Emotional hunger isn’t located in the stomach. You feel your hunger as a craving you can’t get out of your head. You’re mentally focused on specific textures, tastes, and smells.

Emotional hunger often leads to regret, guilt, or shame. When you eat to satisfy physical hunger, you’re unlikely to feel guilty or ashamed because you’re simply giving your body what it needs. If you feel guilty after you eat, it’s likely because you know deep down that you’re not eating for nutritional reasons.

And the 4 most common triggers tied to emotional eating are:

1. Stress
2. Boredom
3. Social influences
4. Childhood habits

All but the 4th are environmental conditions in which we are currently placed and these triggers are much easier to change or modify than childhood habits. Think back to your childhood memories of food. Did your parents reward good behavior with ice cream, take you out for pizza when you got a good report card, or serve you sweets when you were feeling sad?

These emotionally based childhood eating habits often carry over into adulthood. Or perhaps some of your eating is driven by nostalgia—for cherishes memories of grilling burgers in the backyard with your dad, baking and eating cookies with your mom, or gathering around the table with your extended family for a home-cooked pasta dinner.

It’s not impossible to avoid these triggers but it’s not as easy as it might seem. The eating aspect of this process is the result of something or someone directing us to towards action of overeating. For instance, stress can be avoided and in return would cause the mind to not send out signals to the body saying it needs carbohydrates.

Again our emotions can make or break how we choose food and beverages. But I personally believe that our habits have a stronger pull on the decisions we make. Look at these current patterns [10]:

• About three-fourths of the US population has an eating pattern that is low in vegetables, fruits, dairy, and oils.

• Most Americans exceed the recommendations for added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium.

In the Ask Your Target Market’s latest survey, just 12% of respondents said they consider their eating habits to be very healthy. 60% consider themselves to be somewhat healthy eaters. 22% said they are not very healthy. And 6% said their eating habits are not healthy at all.

But just because many people have at least somewhat healthy eating habits doesn’t mean they aren’t still trying to improve them. Just 38% of respondents said they are satisfied with their current eating habits. 48% said they would like to eat healthier. And 15% said they are currently working toward eating healthier.

Emotions or not, how we eat is a habit and habits can be changed but the process in which it does is a different story. This circles back to our genetics and how we interpret the fight or flight response.

To take it a step further, it’s our personality that defines who we are and what we do so if we want to really break habits and change the mold we need to learn more about what drives us individually and begin to change the conversation on how we manage our nutrition.

Being a Strength Coach for the past 15 years as well as a Sports Nutritionist I strongly feel, based on my education and experience, that our personality drives our emotions and our emotions drive our habits and preferences thus resulting in the choices we make on a daily basis, like the food we eat and the beverages we drink.

I apologize for going off on a little tangent just now and I understand this isn’t a personality report so let’s circle back and talk more about tangible items that might have a more important role in the nutritional world than we realize: Appetite Control / Hunger Suppression.

Continue with The Subconscious Eater Series, Part 3 – Controlling Our Appetite & FAKE Food Ingredients

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The Subconscious Eater (Part 1) You ARE What You Eat

By Brian Klepacki, MS, CISSN, CSCS

Everywhere you look it seems that nearly everyone has some sort of medical condition. I’m not talking about the big issues like cancer or AIDS, more so the smaller common stuff that we hear about almost everyday. This seems to be the norm these days as unfortunate as it is.

But have you ever asked yourself why?

Think of five people that are close to you. Now of those five, I’m sure you can think of at least one ‘condition’ or ‘issue’ that they are dealing with. It could be something like a skin disorder, chronic headaches, sleep apnea, a dysfunctional thyroid and the list goes on and on.

And what about you? What are you currently dealing with?

We all have something going on and it could just be part of the natural aging process. Even though this process is inevitable, choosing healthier lifestyles can slow it down with the right techniques and certainly becoming more aware of the food and beverages we consume daily.

And this leads me into my next thought provoking questions; do you pay attention to WHY you choose the food that you do? And do you actually know what’s in the food you choose?

Out of those five people that you were told to think about earlier, ask them if they eat healthy. I think that both of us would bet that 4 out of your 5 would say, yes, they do eat healthy or at least ‘try’ to.

However, according to the Center of Disease Control (CDC) more than 80% of Americans fail to eat the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables. [1]

It’s no wonder that when you read of simple stats like the one listed above, it makes sense that obesity, heart disease, and diabetes are extremely widespread right now within this country.

• 36.5% of U.S. adults are considered obese. [2]
• Number of adults with diagnosed heart disease: 27.6 million. [3]
• 29 million people in the United States have diabetes. [4]

It’s obvious that something within the system in which we live is terribly flawed.

It doesn’t take an expert to see that these statistics are driven by something of incredible power to reach these scary numbers. Nor am I just going to give you a list of risk factors associated behind these numbers or all the reasons why so many people are diseased. Instead I have chosen to investigate the emotional and perhaps the chemical reason behind why western culture eats and drinks the way it does.

Before we dive into what drives our hunger and appetite, here are 11 facts about American eating habits [5]:

1. In a 2012 study, 52% of Americans (that were polled) believed doing their taxes was easier than figuring out how to eat healthy.

2. At least 1 in 4 people eat some type of fast food every day.

3. Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that in 2011 the average American consumed nearly one ton of food. That’s 1,996 pounds of food a year.

4. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s tests have found widespread pesticide contamination on popular fruits and vegetables, also known as the “dirty dozen.”

5. The study also revealed some other interesting numbers. Americans ate: 632 lbs. of dairy products (including 31.4 lbs. of cheese), 415.4 lbs. of vegetables (most popular being corn and potatoes), 273 lbs. of fruit, and 183.6 lbs. of meat and poultry.

6. According to a 2012 Food and Health Survey, only 3 in 10 Americans believe that all sources of calories play an equal role in weight gain. Many Americans believe that carbohydrates, sugars, and fats are the key sources for weight gain

7. Americans consume 31% more packaged food than fresh food.

8. Healthiness of the food we eat decreases by 1.7% for every hour that passes in the day, meaning that people generally eat healthiest at breakfast and will most likely eat unhealthier food later in the day.

9. Over 10 billion donuts are consumed in the US every year.

10. 20% of all American meals are eaten in the car.

11. Americans spend 10% of their disposable income on fast food every year.

I love talking nutrition with people. Yes, this is my profession and it’s my job to help others on their way towards better health but I also love to learn ‘why’ people are doing what they are doing.

With that said, WHY did you decide to eat what you did for your last meal?

Availability? Ease? Lack of time? Had a craving? Personal preference?

If we can replace those answers with these words instead: beneficial, loaded with nutrients, energy booster, free of hormones/chemicals, and so on… I think we would be one step closer to making BIG changes to the way we eat.

Let’s look at genetics vs. experience.

When you eat, your brain combines the signals from these specialized taste (in the mouth) and olfactory (aroma in the nose) receptors to form a flavor. Flavor is further influenced by other perceived qualities, such as the burn of chili, the cooling of mint, or the thickness of yogurt.

Humans have about 35 receptors to detect sweet, salty, bitter, sour, etc. In addition to that humans have around 400 receptors to detect aroma. The receptor proteins are produced from instructions encoded in our DNA and there is significant variation in the DNA code between individuals.

In 2004, researchers identified that olfactory receptors were located in mutational areas of the skull. These regions have higher than normal genetic variation. Any of these genetic variants may change the shape of the receptor and result in a difference in perception of taste or aroma between people [6].

Another study showed that any two individuals would have genetic differences that translate to differences in 30% to 40% of their aroma receptors. This suggests we all vary in our flavor perception for foods and that we all live in our own unique sensory world. [7]

A more recent study stated that their ‘data suggests that taste perception of fatty acid can be altered by the diet, the relative influence of genetics in this process has yet to be explored. To ascertain the role, if any, of genetic factors surrounding the perception of fatty acid taste, future studies will need to evaluate the functional consequences of allelic variation in the receptors that mediate fatty acid taste, and the relative expression of these receptors on the tongue.’ [8]

Unfortunately how things sit today we are just beginning to understand how genes alter our sense of taste and smell, and how this may affect food preferences to consume healthier foods. Further research is needed to understand how multiple genes may combine to influence sensory perception and dietary intake.

However, the other side of the coin seems to be much shinier.

Continue with The Subconscious Eater Series, Part 2 – Our Emotional Connection to Food

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2017 Arnold Sports Festival featuring Ben Tatar | Critical Bench

Interviewed by Chris Wilson, Head Strength Coach

Chris Wilson: How was the 2017 Arnold Sports Festival Amazing and What Could Have Been Better? Explain why?

Ben Tatar: Here’s how the Arnold Sports Festival was AMAZING and where it could have been better. I will explain the reasons for each.

How was the 2017 Arnold ‘Amazing’?

The networking opportunities. I have been networking with the best in the fitness industry for over twenty years. That means every time I walk down the Arnold Sports Festival floor I feel a magical aura and this aura builds every single year as new history is always made! I am in a constant state of excitement the entire time I’m there and I love my connections with all of my friends from all across the globe. The Arnold (ASF) is something I look forward to all year long.

How could have the 2017 Arnold ‘Been Better’?

When I walked the Arnold Expo floor, I had one moment when I said to myself, “Why is there a two-hour line for Paige Hathaway? I met her in a Las Vegas VIP party and I could talk all I wanted with her or pick her up over my head.” Then I saw Jon Bones Jones with a three-hour line and I thought “I saw him at the hotel and had dinner with him.” When I walked around the expo, I literally thought, “I have met all of these celebrities in more personal settings without all these crowds. I have met much bigger stars than these at other events without these lines. What am I doing here?”

Another issue was that in the strongman contest one of the heavy favorites, Zydrunas Savickas got injured in training. He was Brian Shaw’s top competitor. The Arnold didn’t have the WWE experience (where all the wrestlers come) like in past years. They didn’t bring in any new big names and the Arnold didn’t have the NFL Hall of Fame this year in the convention center with NFL hall of famers.

The after parties weren’t nearly as good as they were in 2011. With adversity, though, new doors open. For example, I bonded more with friends like Angela Faith Jones, Tiny Meeker, Rob Jones, friends at the GLC 2000 Booth and other companies.

I also went to the Kids’ Expo. The Kids’ Expo was amazing because it had everything the Arnold had without the crowds. I made all types of discoveries and did great things that I wouldn’t have done if everything was great from first glance. It actually worked out well in the end!

CW: Who was the FREAKIEST dude there? Who was the biggest celebrity there (besides Arnold), and who was a huge let down?

BT: I saw the biggest celebrity names at the Makeitfit Charity Event for Autism. The celebrities at the event included Chris Andersen who won the NBA championship with that 66-13 Miami Heat team and last year’s Cleveland Cavaliers who beat the 73-9 Golden State Warriors in the NBA championship.

Six time Mr. Olympia, Phil Heath was there as were players from the NJ Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers. Some of the big name celebrities who were there were: 50 cent, Jon Bones Jones the most unstoppable UFC fighter, UFC champ Stipe Miocic, Randy Couture, the Cleveland Cavalier Cheerleaders, Columbus Blue Jacket Players, Columbus Clippers, the Ohio State Cheerleaders/Players and a few other fighters.

Most celebrities were fitness related. Many of the celebrities who were at the expo can be found on:

The freakiest dude? It’s hard to compare athletes and lifters from different sports. It’s hard to compare a 6′ 9 450lbs strongman champ like Brian Shaw to Glenn Ross, a 6’1 580lbs strongman. It’s also hard to compare a powerlifter who is 5′ 10 and 400lbs to a 5′ 9 300lbs ripped bodybuilder to the gills with 25 inch arms.

The Arnold has all of these freaks and then some. However, it’s only fair that I give a freak award out as I do every single year. When I look for a freak champ, I look for three things. These things include 1) freaky hugeness 2) their story 3) having an energy or edge about them.

This year I want to give my king of freaks award to…. Frank X Budelewski. He stands at 6’4 and weighs 370lbs. His pic next to me speaks for itself.

For the huge let down? I observed some odd interactions others had with some of the celebrities but nothing that truly qualifies as a major let down.

CW: Besides the main event (bodybuilding contest) what other attraction was the most exciting and well attended?

BT: Everyone who sees the bodybuilding sees the strongman contest at the finals since they are on the same stage. This means that all the events get the same following. During the day time, the Strongman gets the biggest following followed by the female bikini and figure type competitions. Every event has a decent following, and you have to get a seat early since over 200,000 visit the convention center during the weekend.

CW: If you could hang out with ANY 3 people at the ASF, who would they be and why?

BT: Well, if I excluded anyone from my list I would have lots of freaks and models wanting to kick my butt!!! Hahahaha.
However, I will say this:

I would like to bring the dead back! I wish I could see Mike Witmer, Sean Jones and Dean Bennett at these events again. Check out some of the articles they have done with me in past years:

Dean Bennett asking me 50 questions at the 08 Arnold:

Dean Bennett Interviewing me:

My tribute to Witmer for powerlifting USA Magazine:

I’m sure they are with me in spirit but it would be cool to hang with them like I used to.

I would like to see Critical Chris and Mike Westerdal come out for an Arnold event one day! You know, have the CB family come and enjoy the weekend together.

As I said earlier, the more I come to this event, the more I’m reminded of the great people I’ve met over the years who are no longer with us and I think of them during my time at the ASF. So many great people that are gone too soon and this is mentally with me all the time.
I was also very glad to see everyone who was there this year. I would like to give a shout out to everyone who engaged with me during Arnold Weekend. I can’t acknowledge them all, the list would be over one hundred people.

CW: Do you have any advice for people who attend the Arnold?

BT: Yes, drink responsibly and don’t waste all of your energy on athletic challenges during day one. The expo has over 1,000 booths and if you’re like me, you’re on your feet moving all day. If you’re not feeling yourself or did an athletic/strength challenge early, getting around the expo will be more challenging than competing in a Tough Mudder event. It’s best to save the competitive challenges and the heavy partying until the end.

Also, be careful with the FREE supplements and energy drinks. I took too many energy supplements back in 2005 and I was shaking like crazy the whole day. I couldn’t even take a picture because my finger was bouncing. Gladly, they don’t give these energy supplement bottles today like they once did.

When you network with someone, always know who they are before you talk to them; you will be far more credible right from the start. When you know something about someone, often they hug you right away. If you don’t, it’s harder to build rapport and engage in quality conversation. It’s better to ask for a pic and be positive. At least pics are flattering and making videos can be fun!

Lastly, people who attend these events are expecting a weekend that they can’t get anywhere else. They are going to bring their most outgoing selves. Have a blast, don’t hold back and enjoy yourself. Treat each second as special. The road and bonds can be unlimited.

CW: What new events were at the Arnold?

BT: The Arnold has events now like lacrosse, disabled powerlifting, yoga, handball, indoor Scottish highland games, Arnold pro strong woman and Arnold transformation challenges. As you can see, the Arnold has continued to grow!

The Arnold has gotten so huge that there are three stages at the Arnold. They have the Main stage, the Rogue strength stage and the Concourse stage. Although so many events are at the Convention center they have shuttle buses going to different locations.

For example, there is soccer at the Bo Jackson’s Elite Sports event. Swimming is at the New Albany High School. Disc Golf is at Walnut Hill. The indoor triathlon is at the Sawmill Athletic Club. 50+ DanceSport is at Sheraton Capitol square. Lacrosse is at the Taft Coliseum. Boxing is at the Ohio building. Table tennis is at the Voinovich Center. There is just so much and there are buses and info stations telling you where you need to be.

Personally, I think the growth is great for the mainstream. In past years, everything was at the Convention Center. Then parents didn’t want their kids to be around the booth girls or around supplements. Now kids have 200 vendors or can try every sport out at the Kids’ Expo. You have tons of non lifting events at different venues and the hardcore stuff is always at the expo with the exception of a few powerlifting events. There is greater variety of things to do.

CW: Is the ASF worth attending if you are NOT interested in bodybuilding? Explain

BT: Most of the lines are for famous people. Many people go to hang out with models, UFC fighters and pro athletes. The Arnold is so vast that they have everything. Here are some attractions during Arnold weekend:

Kids’ Expo– There is a Kids’ Expo with super heroes dressed up in costumes and athletic games/ athletic challenges going on all day. They have NFL athletes and celebrities.

70+ competitions– they have 70 competitions going on that aren’t bodybuilding related.

The Convention Center– I know non-bodybuilding fans who like sports and find plenty to do during the Arnold. The Arnold is more of a true ‘Sports Festival’ and has been since 2006. Many of the people I know who aren’t into bodybuilding are hanging with UFC fighters at the hotel and then working out with them.

So, really the Arnold has something for everyone. Next year will be the Arnold’s 30th anniversary and I will be there. I hope to see you there too!

ARNOLD Living a Legacy of Strength