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    I have been fairly slack in keeping a blog, for that I apologize.  In a matter of days, perhaps even hours, my wife and I will welcome our first born. I do not know yet whether it is a boy or a girl as we have decided to enjoy one of life’s truest and most authentic surprises.  As all the other parents out there will most certainly agree, becoming a first time parent is a whirlwind of emotions many are indescribable. Along with the emotions comes added responsibilities, many of which will be uncharted territory for me. Anyone who knows me knows I often speak about personal responsibility. Today’s topic encompasses the responsibility of being a parent as well as what I view as a wonderful opportunity.

   My wife and I have a chance to get it right from day one. I am not saying that we are gonna be perfect parents. There is no such thing. I am specifically referring to the nutritional and physical well being of our child.  The baby will have never eaten any processed food or GMOs refined sugars or any other crap of the sort at the time of birth. WE are being handed the opportunity to keep it that way. Is it going to be easy? No. Is it going to be convenient? Certainly not. Yet, I feel that this is truly one way to fulfill the parental desire of, “giving your children a better life than you had.” Many people relate this sentiment to finances, or circumstances, or experiences. What if we just simply fed our children better? There is so much knowledge and research out there now, yet childhood obesity and diabetes are at all time highs. Cancer at any age is rampant. So I am making a commitment as a first time father to feed my children well. 

   In addition to this I am committed to their physical culture as well. Many of you reading this more than likely played outside as a kid. Nowadays however kids are sedentary by comparison, spending hours inside playing video games and watching television. Side note cartoons these days are shit, long live “Looney Tunes!” I also have witnessed a steady decline in the appreciation of nature in the younger generation. Solution, take your kids hiking, camping, and fishing. Let them explore, let them play. Along with our commitment to eating well, we are also committing to getting our kid to move and play freely and a lot, and spend time outside. 

  I think that these three simple commitments can give our child a beautiful live right from the start. I hope you all will join me. Remember if you don’t have a kid yet, you have the OPPORTUNITY for an amazing start that will set you and your family up for a lifetime of health and happiness! 

“Play freely. Practice sophistication. Train intelligently. Breathe deep.”

Respectful regards,

  Coach Mark

    Growing up with ADHD lists were a vital tool for me to get anything accomplished.  today as an adult I still make good use of them to complete many tasks one by one over time or all at once or in clusters. I would like to pitch a list now for the rest of your life. This list is special though because you are never to complete it only repeat it as often as possible! The list ends when you have drawn your last breath. There is no particular order and no one thing is necessarily more important than any other. So with out further pause I present the “List for the rest of your life:”

[Move, run, jump, skip, laugh, giggle, crawl, climb, learn, love, breathe, meditate, sprint, relax, explore, create, engage, question, think, stretch, leap, twist, listen, sleep, rest, explore, duck, wiggle, bend, lift, carry, walk, balance, swim, drag, pull, push, press, hop, roll, tumble, fall then get back up, have purpose, have passion, connect, eat clean, wander, pray, read, seek, scurry, hike, touch, grow, challenge, play, play, then play some more!]

It’s fall and for many sports fans that means FOOTBALL! No doubt America’s pastime and an awesome display of some amazing athletes.  I want to reflect on this summer real quick because this summer stands out to me more than those in the past as just being one amazing sporting event after another.  In this recap I am sure to miss something but I’ll give it a go.  We had the Euro cup which we witnessed some brilliant soccer in the highest scoring Euro of all time, these athletes are in serious shape a professional midfielder covers just over 7 miles a game all at multiple speed and intensity changes. Congrats Spain 2012 Champions.  Olympic trails, track and field from historic Hayward Field in Eugene, OR and Swimming from Omaha, NE were merely a tease for the London games which I will cover soon. The next big event I recall was the Tour de France, I have been a fan for years and when it comes to endurance athletes its hard to argue any greater than these studs. I am blown away every year by the sheer mileage these guys put in over 20 days.  Congrats to Bradley Wiggins for winning the Yellow Jersey.  Next we have the reason I get up in the morning, the Olympics! I love the Olympics. Every single event, from prelims to finals; from table tennis to the men’s 4x400m. Same for the winter games too. I could go on for quite some time about each athlete that stood out in London, but I will spare the audience (this time). The Olympics is the zenith of athleticism. The very definition of optimal max when opportunity meets performance.  These individuals are specimens of a lifetime of dedication and training. So, what is the point of this entry?

  Simple, your body is capable of greatness. I am not saying that everyone can be an Olympian but guess what? These great athletes that I’ve been talking about have the same number of bones as you, the same number of muscles and the same  basic neurological patterns as you. They are anatomically and biochemically (mostly) identical to you. In other words they are HUMAN! I want this blog to encourage a spark in you to awaken your desire for physical greatness.  Wherever you are in your fitness journey you have heights yet to reach, you are capable of so much more than you are giving yourself credit. Try something new. Set a goal that seems impossible. Seek expert advise. And above all BELIEVE in the perfect miracle that it the human body! 

Interview With Nutrition Expert Alan Aragon by Brad Schoenfeld:


Great interview of Alan Aragon posted up at by Brad Schoenfeld today. It touches on a multitude of topics and well worth the read for some beneficial information.

Those of you who follow this blog undoubtedly know about Alan Aragon. Fact is, there’s no one in the field of nutrition I respect more. Alan holds a master’s degree in nutrition, consults with a legion of famous clients (including Pete Sampras, Derek Fisher, and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin), and serves as the nutritional expert for Men’s Health Magazine. He also edits the excellent newsletter, Alan Aragon’s Research Review.

Most importantly, though, Alan Aragon is the epitome of an evidence-based professional. First and foremost, he is a student of the literature; a veritable walking encyclopedia on nutritional research. Ask him a question about a given nutritional topic and he’ll answer not only by rattling off the results of relevant studies, but also cite the names of the authors and the year of publication as well. It’s quite amazing, actually.

Yet what really sets Alan apart from the pack is his keen understanding as to how research should be applied in practice. He has an astute ability to sift through the body of literature and provide practical recommendations based on a person’s individual needs. His approach is always thoughtful and balanced; a voice of reason. That’s why when I need a get an opinion on a given nutritional topic, Alan’s the guy I turn to for answers. I’ve taught nutrition at the university level. I stay abreast of current dietary research. But Alan is on another level. Call him the “Yoda of nutrition”!

So it goes without saying that I’m pleased to have interviewed Alan for this blog post. Here he shares his knowledge on some of the most controversial and heavily debated topics in nutrition today. As always, Alan is not afraid to speak his mind. Sit back, read, and enjoy!

First, thanks so much for consenting to this interview Alan. For those who might not be aware of your work, can you tell the readers a little about your background.

Thanks for inviting me to unleash hell on your audience, Brad. Anyone who doesn’t know who I am has not done enough trolling through the seedy corners of the internet…. In all seriousness though, I’m an educator more than anything else. I have a passion for getting the truth out and seeing learners find their way out of the dark, so to speak. My main vehicle for this is writing, so I guess you could say I’m like Gary Taubes, except I’m not afraid to report the totality of evidence instead of choosing the bits that fit my brand. I used to do fitness training and counseling full-time, but now I maintain a small stable of clients to keep a foot in the trenches while the rest of me is immersed in the research.

You have written about post-exercise protein intake and state that it might not be as important as some claim. But you also discuss that the relative importance is a function of a person’s goals. Can you explain your position?

Let’s first set the stage with some background. Postexercise protein intake has been promoted in both lay and academic circles as an urgent, universally imperative tactic, but it’s rarely ever put in the proper perspective. The origin of the postexercise “anabolic window of opportunity” began with research examining postexercise carbohydrate timing on the rate of glycogen resynthesis after depletion. Delaying carbohydrate intake resulted in significantly less glycogen replenishment, but this finding was limited to an observation period of only a few hours. On a related tangent, subsequent research showed no difference in the amount of post-depletion glycogen replenishment at the 24-hour mark, despite major differences in dietary fat content (originally presumed to impede the process).

Protein got lumped into the supposed ‘magic’ of the postexercise period after studies showed that protein expedited glycogen resynthesis when co-ingested with carbohydrate (particularly in the case of insufficient carbohydrate). Furthermore, research has also shown that protein consumed in the postexercise period can work synergistically with the trained state to stimulate muscle protein synthesis (MPS). However, these studies have two main limitations. First off, in most studies the protein was given to subjects who trained after an overnight fast, minus a pre-exercise meal. Secondly, the bulk of the research showing the benefit of immediate postexercise protein is acute (short-term). The majority of chronic (long-term) studies lasting several weeks has failed to corroborate the acute findings. Many people – even smart folks in the industry – are unaware of this, probably because the bulk of the research with null findings began in 2009 & onward.

This isn’t to say that the body of research on this topic is vast or comprehensive enough to be adamant about the unimportance of protein timing. However, it does provide grounds to assume a wider margin of timing flexibility as long as the total for the day is hit. Hopefully future investigations will compare the timing effects of carbohydrate co-ingested with larger protein doses that max-out acute MPS in trained subjects on diets that provide sufficient total protein that’s matched (including supplemental protein) between groups. Thus far, the research in this vein is scarce, but would help provide an important puzzle piece. In the mean time, hitting the total protein target for the day remains the primary objective, while timing and distribution of its constituent doses is the distantly secondary concern. At best, specific timing is the icing on the cake. But, you have to have the cake down-pat, otherwise the icing means crap.

Any benefit to consuming one type of protein over another (i.e. whey vs. casein)?

In the larger picture, the answer for the most part is no. Assuming that someone is consuming sufficient total daily protein from a variety of high-quality sources, then their bases will be covered, regardless of differences in protein type. Short-term data indicates the superior effects of whey (compared to casein or soy) on MPS at both the resting & postexercise periods. It’s been speculated that this is due to the greater overall rise in circulating amino acid (particularly leucine) levels yielded by whey. However, studies that dragged this type of comparison out for several weeks have shown equivocal outcomes. Whey, as opposed to casein or soy, has not emerged as the dominant winner for improving muscular adaptations to training. This serves to reinforce the principles that a) total daily amount of high-quality protein is of prime importance, b) differences seen shortly postexercise will not automatically translate to long-term adaptations, and c) the body of evidence is subject to evolve.

How important is macronutrient ratio with respect to weight loss?

People have varying total energy demands, and this can differently influence their macronutrient requirements. Ratios per se shouldn’t be the focus since they’re merely a default result of figuring absolute needs. For example, those with a moderate to high energy output (through formal training, non-exercise activity, or both), can typically consume a higher amount of carbohydrate and still lose weight. In contrast, sedentary or barely active folks have lower overall energy demands, thus a high carbohydrate intake wouldn’t likely be optimal. Nevertheless, there’s rather interesting, yet unreplicated research examining the effects of insulin sensitivity on weight loss (low-carb worked better for insulin-resistant subjects while high-carb worked better for insulin-sensitive subjects). Unfortunately, body composition wasn’t assessed, nor was there any structured exercise protocol. My hunch is that a well-designed, progressive training program would greatly diminish the influence of pre-existent differences in insulin sensitivity on weight loss.

Are you a proponent of cutting carbs for someone who wants to get really lean?

For losing fat past the initial stages, I’m a proponent of imposing a calorie deficit, and depending on the individual situation, this can involve a decrease in caloric intake, an increase in caloric output, or a combination of both. In the case of intake reduction, it doesn’t make sense to hack into critical nutrients – especially protein, whose requirement actually increases in a caloric deficit. So, for the most part, it’s carbs that will get the brunt of the reduction when it’s time to cut calories, while protein & fat remain somewhat stable (I typically set protein slightly higher than it needs to be). The degree of carb reduction varies individually, but the underlying aim is to consume the highest amount of carbs that still allow a satisfactory rate of fat loss. This approach accomplishes two main things – it enables the highest possible training performance (in terms of both strength & endurance), and also the lowest chance of undue hormonal downregulation from prolonged bouts of dieting. Carb reduction can then be strategically positioned as a trump card. In other words, carbs can always be incrementally reduced on an as-needed basis, depending on how results are proceeding. Starting off with minimal carbs from the get-go leaves fewer options in the toolbox to break through progress plateaus once training volume is maxed-out.

Intermittent fasting has gained popularity recently. What are your thoughts? Panacea or fad?

I think the popularity of intermittent fasting (IF) is, for the most part, a good vindication of science. Academics have known for a while now that research has not supported the lore of frequent, small meals to stoke the metabolism better than the equivalent in larger, fewer meals. Furthermore, research has not supported the idea that small, frequent meals are necessary for preserving muscle mass. The evidence as a whole has not indicated any threat to muscle preservation during dieting when meal frequency is reduced – either daily or intermittently through the week. In fact, some studies have shown superior lean mass retention with IF during hypocaloric conditions. However, this could have been due to measurement error inherent with bioelectrical impedance analysis. It should also be noted that the IF research thus far has not involved structured exercise protocols.

At the same time that IF has vindicated science, it also created its own over-zealous following who preaches its universal necessity for optimizing body composition and health. Viewed more objectively, IF presents an effective option for those who prefer the convenience and luxury of larger meals – not to mention, less preparation & transportation of meals through the day. Any special or superior metabolic effects of IF compared to conventional meal patterns are speculative at this point. While IF has consistently shined in the department of lean mass retention while dieting, its comparison to conventional meal frequency on gains in muscular strength & hypertrophy is uncharted ground, at least in formal research. There are plenty of hypotheses flying around this area, but nothing demonstrated under controlled conditions. For the time being, meal frequency for optimal size & strength gain remains mysterious. This mystery is likely to begin unfolding with short-term data that one camp will excitedly embrace. If history means anything, the acute data will be followed by long-term data that shakes the confidence in former beliefs. Either way it goes, I’ve got my popcorn ready.

On a final note, I’ve seen the greatest client success come from letting individual preference dictate meal frequency. Some people do great on small frequent meals, others do great on the opposite (and all points in between). The theoretical advantages of any given dietary approach go straight out the window if it’s at odds with someone’s personal preference & adherence capability.

Tell us a little about your research review and how you came to start the service.

In a nutshell, my research review (AARR) is a monthly romp through the current and past research on nutrition, training, and supplementation. I do my best to present both the theory and application of the concepts and findings. The idea to start AARR was born from my own dissatisfaction with my knowledge level despite having vast client experience, multiple training certifications, a graduate degree in nutrition, and being active in attending & presenting continuing education lectures. I felt like there had to be some way to further “force” myself toward the top tier of expertise. Putting AARR together each month was the logical solution for my self-directed learning tendencies. I’m now enjoying the process of sharing my ongoing enlightenment with like-minded folks inside and outside of the field.

Great stuff, Alan. Really appreciate you taking the time to share your views!

Check out Alan’s blog Here

Check out Alan’s excellent research review (AARR) Here

Visit Brad Schoenfeld’s website at

For those of you that know me or have begun following my blog, you more than likely have heard me talk about the importance of recharging the batteries. One of the best things about living in Wilmington it the proximity to the beach. I have always loved the water. Any kind of water, heck I sometimes take showers just to be wet. Yet the ocean provides a deep refreshment I do not experience anywhere else. If I am crazy sore after a workout and the weather permits I have found the best recovery to be a dip in the drink. I think some of it is the weightless feeling, some the lapping of the surf, some recovery I attribute to trace minerals found in the water, or maybe it is something more like life began in the ocean type of recharge. I am not sure but either way the ocean replenishes and recharges so be sure you take a dip next time you are near the sea!

I am always glad to see September each year because that means an end to the chaos of summer. My clients return from vacation, the kids are back in school and scheduling becomes easier, also there is a surge in new clients. This September is extra special tomorrow my website launches which has been a long but worth while process. This is just another step toward running a successful business and becoming on of the most influential and meaningful trainers in  Wilmington (we’ll start here then take on the world!) I hope you all visit my page and let me know what you think. Also I will be releasing the latest Asylum Fitness video tomorrow its gonna be awesome. If September were a mythical creature it would be a Phoenix!

Train smart!

  Yeah, I know it may be a little corning, but I think that with these three words and the proper interpretation of them we can gain a lot out of our daily lives. The famous wrestling coach Dan Gable often said, “If it’s important do it daily. If it’s not, don’t do it at all.” Great words to live by. Yet most of us lack both direction and discipline to even begin to know what is important let alone do it everyday.  Furthermore we get lost and confused with what is not important perhaps even more so than what is. 

  Let’s begin with “Eat.” Eating is obviously important, without food we would die. However most of us treat our bodies like the municipal dump. We bombard our GI system with processed and refined chemicals, a cornucopia of synthetic and artificial ingredients mostly in the name of convenience but also I feel in large part to ignorance, and if we are truly honest down right laziness. Eat clean, it really is that simple. Put good in get good out, if you can grow it eat it, eat organic, etc etc. Sound familiar? Of course! Then why is it that the number one issue my clients struggle with is nutrition? Well they are certainly not alone. 68% of our nation is overweight! I am not here to harp on the food industry that soap box will come later. Here is the take home point if it is important do it daily, if not don’t do it at all.  So for eating, 

  • Eat breakfast
  • begin your day with a protein source
  • take a fish oil
  • eat veggies especially green leafy ones
  • limit sugar intake
  • Drink LOTS of water

Everyday, that’s it that is the “do’s.” The “don’t not’s” even easier.

  • Don’t eat fast food
  • if you need a masters degree in chemistry to read a label don’t eat it
  • Don’t eat til you feel full (that is over eating)

Short list. 

Next let’s talk about “Live.” My hope for every body I come in contact with and have the opportunity to influence is that they live well, and live long.  Our bodies are a miraculous bit of craftsmanship that are capable of so much.  We must, and I can not over emphasize must, take care of our bodies today in order that we may enjoy the fullest riches of life tomorrow.  As humans we need to feel like we have a purpose, do something meaningful with your life. No one wants to sit on a porch swing in their eighties and tell their grand kids they made no impact or positive contribution toward society and humanity. Find something you love that gives meaning to your existence and do it, everyday. Also relax. Seriously if Americans were wound any tighter I think we would have a pandemic of exploding heads. Take time each day to reflect, breath deep and unwind. You will thank me in just a few weeks for that one. Another one is to tell someone you love them every day. It does not matter who just tell some one, and tell them every single day, preferably multiple times a day. (I love you babe) And pray. If you don’t pray then find another way to sort out you thoughts, fears, hopes, needs, wishes and what have you. Also floss everyday, I know that is random but that and wearing a seat belt are just good pieces of advice I didn’t know where else to place in this entry.

    “Play” pretty straight forward, no smoke and mirrors here. Get outside breathe some fresh air, feel the sun and wind on your face and just move! Break a sweat while you are at it. Exercise is the single most important thing we can to do to improve our health. Exercise should be freeing and exhilarating.  At times it may even be an adventure or an experience. Do it daily! 

Live well, Live long.  

As this summer draws to a close, at least in the sense of back to school and Labor day, I wanted to reflect upon the past 3 months.  Summer has traditionally been a time for me where I would absolutely workout more and train harder than any other time of the year. Perhaps it stems from getting ready for fall sports in high school or having more free time than I could stand during my college summers or perhaps there was something more intrinsic. Let’s look back at childhood…summer meant freedom and play time. As a boy it meant adventure, exploration, a healthy but harmless dose of mischief and limitless play.  You see I think that in all of us there is still a kid screaming to play.  We were born to move! I also think the only time we give pause long enough to listen to our inner youth is during the summer months when sweat and nostalgia collide in a revitalizing way that urges us to be more active.  Others will argue, “Oh people are more active in summer cause they wear less clothes and want to be attractive"  Fair enough but vanity only goes so far and the truly vain will want to look fabulous year round.  Futhermore, summer is not the time to try to make asthetic improvements for the sake of being half nekked the next 3-4 months. So as our fall routines of carpool, little league, meetings, and worry set in don’t forget the simple joys of summer break when you were young and all you wanted to do was run barefoot in the yard.  Remember to make time to play.

I have no one following me yet, but I hope and my goal for having a blog is that I will get an audience that I can share all that I have learned and impart my knowledge of health, fitness, and life to those willing to listen and that through this medium I can enhance the quality of other’s lives. 

Live well and train smart!

Coach Mark