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Changing Nutritional Habits

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I discussed in a previous article some general points about nutrition and broke down the importance of Quantity with a brief dive into Quality (Nutritional Basics Part 1). Now we are going to break down QUALITY even further. As stated in the previous article, very few things with nutrition are finite and there is much trial and error to be had here. However here is what I have had the most success with over my years experimenting with guinea pigs…..ummm I mean clients.

Let’s establish a hierarchy of what is most important to “attack” first. With the general population I focus on Quality of food, then Quantity and finally timing and frequency of meals. I do this because I like a more gradual approach with the average Joe. On the flip side I would take a much more aggressive approach with someone who has had experience training and tracking macros, as they would likely make the necessary changes without having to undergo a “buy in” period. The bottom line is being willing to make changes and accept viewpoints that differ from common government standards, as this is essential to your own “buy in”.

Here is how I would help someone who is very low on the nutrition totem pole, so to speak. First week, address liquid intake. Cut out the majority of the junk you’re drinking and get close to a gallon of water a day. Second week, concentrate on breakfast quality. Third week, look at lunch quality. And the fourth week addresses dinner quality. Once these are controlled I will then tackle quantity, as discussed previously. Once that is on point, I will move meal timing around to best facilitate workout gainzz and/or muscle growth. In general, I recommend single ingredient foods by macro category as follows:

Lean Protein: White Fish, Chicken, Turkey, Whey Protein, Egg whites, 90/10 or leaner ground beef/steak/bison.

Protein + Fat: Cold water fish, 80/20 ground beef/marbled steak, Full fat dairy, Whole eggs.

Carbohydrates: White or Brown Rice, Quinoa, Oats, Veggies, Potatoes (Sweet or White), Fruit.

Fats: Coconut Oil, Kerry Gold Butter, Macadamia nuts/oil/butter, Walnuts/oil/butter, Avocado, Olive Oil, Almonds/butter.

I have found this to be a very easy and helpful start to the long journey of changing someone’s nutritional habits and setting them up for long term success. By simply choosing to eat single ingredient foods you can facilitate weight loss and see the improvement of various health markers such as (cholesterol, triglycerides, blood glucose and CRP, to name a few). Whatever you decide to do, commit to it and you will likely see changes. Remember YOU are in sole control of what you put in your body!

Mike Grillo B.S. Exercise Science, NASM CPT, NASM CES, USAW, CrossFit Level 1

8 Notable Supplements

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1) Whey Protein
Brand: Any-In general, look for something that breaks down the Branch Chain Amino Acids on the nutrition facts to ensure quality.
How much: Whatever you need to take to hit your Protein Macros.
When: Whenever you need a lean quality protein source.
Purpose: Whey protein has one of the best amino acid profiles of any protein. When we get to BCAA supplementation we will talk more about Leucine and its value in muscle protein synthesis. To put it simply Whey has a large amount of Leucine, so its amino acid profile is great for muscle building and recovery. However Leucine in BCAA supplements and in Whey are different in that BCAA supplements have free form amino acids. If you have GI issues Whey protein isolate is the “whey” to go…..see what I did there? If you have no issues with lactose then feel free to use concentrate.
Unfortunately plant proteins do not have the same great amino acid profile as whey, actually they are awful in comparison. So I would not recommend pea, rice, soy, or hemp protein, that is unless you are a vegan. They do not even come close to comparing with the amino acid profile, digestibility and bioavailability of whey protein.

2) Vitamin D
Brand: Any, liquid has the best bioavailability
How much: 1000-5000iu/day. Amount depends on sex, age, nutrition, sun exposure. Stay under 10,000iu/day.
When: Does not matter, but take with a fat source.
Purpose: Research shows that 90% of the US population may be deficient and Vitamin D is important in many metabolic processes, hormonal processes, and immune response function. Also, Vit D deficiency has been linked to many autoimmune disorders and many general health conditions such as COPD and heart failure.

3) Fish Oil
Brand: Carlson’s, Nordic Naturals are top of the line, outside of those all are close to equal.
How much: 1-2g of EPA/DHA a day
When: Does not matter. Maybe take with Vitamin D because it is a fat source 
Purpose: Fish oil has been touted to have many anti-inflammatory properties. However this is only true when properly dosed and coupled with the decrease of dietary omega 6 fatty acids. There have been multiple studies about the positive effects of fish oil in people with heart conditions and/or advanced autoimmune disorders. Yet the studies on fish oil are still mixed to this day. Why? Basically fish oil can oxidize rather easily and potentially cause some damage via production of free radicals. Unfortunately we can’t just mega-dose fish oil (10-20g a day) like many were lead to believe. This is due to its ability to oxidize easily.  

4) Creatine
Brand: Creatine Monohydrate!!! Micronized or not, it doesn’t matter, but ONLY creatine monohydrate has been shown that it is maximally absorbed in the skeletal muscle tissue. Many companies try to sell you fancy stuff with transport systems and better bioavailability…..simply not true!
How much: 5g/day every day. Your own creatine production won’t forever decline, no need to cycle on and off.  However, your own creatine production will slightly decrease but with supplementation it simply doesn’t matter.
When: Dose not matter. Take consistently as we are just accumulating creatine, not taking it and immediately expending it. Consistency is key here.
Purpose: This is the most lengthy/heavily researched supplement and it works! Creatine supplementation increases creatine-phosphate and creatine-kinase in the muscles, which can be used to produce energy in the ATP-CP pathway, which is very important for short intense activity. More energy for force production equates to more strength/more volume, which means you will get another rep or two at the same weight. Creatine can also increase the number of nuclei in muscle fibers. See myonuclear domain theory. Basically states that the more nuclei we have per muscle fiber the more likely we are to grow and recover faster. There have been some pretty amazing studies showing the supplementation of creatine helping neurodegenerative diseases in adults and infants as well!

5) Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
Brand: Powder forms. Check for a 2:1:1 ratio of Leucine:Isoleucine:Valine.  
How much: 10g 
When: Take 10g pre and post workout and possibly between meals if needed.  
Purpose: BCAAs are a low calorie protein source that have been proven to stimulate muscle protein synthesis (MPS). In short, BCAAs in free form get absorbed very quickly from the small intestine, they will then bypass the liver (where any other amino acids will go first), and go directly to skeletal muscle tissues. So we talked about this leucine thing above with Whey protein. Studies show that about 3-4g of leucine every 3-4 hours can stimulate MPS and BCAAs are leucine rich. Side note, iso-leucine and valine are required for leucine use/absorption. So just taking leucine does not work as well. Certain populations who are less sensitive to amino acids, i.e. women, older persons, someone with GI disorders, might require a higher dose. Additionally, those who carry a significantly higher lean body mass may take more (a 250lb male at 14% body fat will need more than his 160lb counterpart).

6) Beta alanine
Brand: Doesn’t matter
How much: 6g/day everyday.
When: 3g pre workout, 3g post workout. 6g in two servings on non-training days.
Purpose: Increases muscle carnosine levels which can act as a buffer against local acidic conditions (lactic acid) that occur in intense training. Some people really feel the tingly/flushed skin feeling which is a normal side effect, and varies person to person. It does take about a month to accumulate peak levels, so when you stop taking BA it takes about a month for effects to diminish.

7) L-carnitine
Brand: Doesn’t matter
How much: 2g a day
When: 1g pre and post workout
Purpose: Potential to reduce fatigue, improve ATP regeneration/recovery and aid in the shuttling of fat to the mitochondria to be “burned”. If you are training hard and trying to lose weight at the same time this is a product for you!

8.) Pre-Workouts
Brand: How do you ever pick?!? Maybe by taste
How Much: Varied by brand.
When: About 30-15 minutes before your workout.
Purpose:  Since many pre workout supplements are a “proprietary mixture” you can never be sure exactly how much of what you are getting. But most will put in Creatine, Beta Alanine, BCAAs, Caffeine, and the list goes on.  However this does not mean they don’t work. Most work due to B vitamins and caffeine which when dosed appropriately give you a rush of energy. To make the most of your pre-workout, avoid stimulants as much as possible throughout the day. Some of these may work simply by placebo effect. Which, in my opinion,  if it makes your workout better, who cares if its placebo or actually working?

Mike Grillo B.S. Exercise Science, NASM CPT, NASM CES, USAW, CrossFit Level 1  


6 Ways To Boost Fat Loss

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Looking to lean out? Change your body composition? DFM Director of Trainer Education Mike Grillo has 6 tips to get you there. 

Take what you read in a magazine with a grain of salt, and stop following the same old methods. Try following these 6 effective surefire tips to boost your results. Adhering to the below tips will likely help you lose body fat quickly, and you will be more likely to stay lean for life!

Get your nutrition in check
  • Surprise, surprise! Nutrition is single handedly the most important aspect to fat loss. You HAVE to make time to meal prep so you are not tempted to make bad choices throughout the day. You also need to keep a detailed nutrition journal tracking EVERYTHING. Regardless of what nutritional parameters you follow (high carb, low carb, high fat, low fat) you will need detailed info of your macronutrient breakdown so you will know how to adjust when progress slows or stops. Try to avoid entire cheat days and stick to just a meal to avoid getting you too far off track. Lastly, if you fall off the wagon, don’t use it as an excuse to stay off. Get right back on by making your next nutritional choice a beneficial one.

Get stronger
  • This may not be as glaringly obvious as the previously mentioned tip. However, if we are trying to create metabolic “damage” for as long as possible then strength training is the way to do it. Studies show that we may burn calories for up to 72 hours after a rigorous strength training workout. So this means that you will need to lift heavy (relative to your ability). Also, we would like our bodies to be fuel “inefficient” (using a lot of fuel/calories), the stronger you get, the more each and every rep will take out of you (using more fuel). Whereas, in low intensity steady state cardio (LISS) you become very fuel efficient (using minimal fuel), because of the aerobic state of the activity over long periods of time and lack of recovery during the activity.

Gain muscle mass
  • Pretty simple concept here. The more muscle you have, the more fuel you use every day, regardless of activity. Simply said, more muscle mass raises your metabolism. This concept will also give you a bit more room for error on the nutritional aspect in regards to carbohydrates.

Use big compound movements
  • Again, we are talking about the most metabolic “damage” we can create in a workout. The big compound movements and their variants are the ones you should stick with. Squats, Deadlifts, Press, Bench, Chin-ups; to list a few. These will create significant usage of energy, and when done for strength they will take longer to recover from and help build muscle mass. When crunched for time, opt for the large movements, not the abs and arms workout you WANT to do.

Use HIIT training
  • As previously stated “LISS” or low intensity steady state cardio is not as good for fat loss as many believe. You become very efficient at burning calories and therefore will not burn as much fuel as compared to using “HIIT” or High intensity interval training. For HIIT training you should be going at near 100% effort for no more than 30 seconds with about 2 minutes of rest between efforts. This type of training has been shown to preserve muscle mass, whereas LISS has been shown to reduce muscle mass. Now it is true that you burn a larger % of calories from fat in LISS training but the overall total is so much lower when compared to HIIT, that LISS it is not superior. Example:

    1. LISS for 1 hour, you burned 500 calories and 80% from fat – 400 Fat calories burned

    2. HIIT for ½ hr, you burned 1000 calories over the next 48 hrs and 50% from fat – 500 Fat calories burned 

Don’t overdo it
  • Lastly, you should not be training too hard every day. Very few people are at the peak of their genetics and therefore need to be doing this. Take 1-3 rest days every week. If you are stressing your body too much this can backfire and be detrimental to fat loss. Sometimes more is not better, smart training is better!

Hopefully you found these tips helpful and you can start to make some small changes in your program to ensure fast and long term fat loss. Follow the above tips, train hard, eat with purpose, and you will be amazed at what your body can do.  

Mike Grillo, DFM Director of Trainer Education
B.S. Exercise Science, NASM CPT, NASM CES, USAW, CrossFit Level 1


Top 5 Food Myths Broken!

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DFM Director of Trainer Education Mike Grillo Breaks 5 Common Myths About Food and How They Relate to Your Fitness Goals

While we could clearly make a list with way more than five, I figured we should just stick to the basic ones I hear year in and year out when dealing with the hordes of new clientele. The following 5 food myths are flat out lies or misconceptions and you need to seek other opinions if someone is spouting these off as common knowledge. Do some real research and always be skeptical of generalized nutritional tips. Like many things in the training world, there is a large grey area, and very little black and white.

Carbs Make You Fat
Likely made popular by certain “caveman” nutritional guidelines. Don’t get me wrong here, low carb diets can be an extremely effective tool in helping someone lose weight, but it ends there. Low carb diets can be detrimental to the majority of training protocols (strength, hypertrophy, CrossFit). So why are they so frequently recommended in the untrained or weight loss population? Well imagine if I told anyone to eat single ingredient foods, (therefore avoiding any processed carbs/foods) this would spur a reduction in total caloric consumption for the day, which should result in weight being lost over time. The majority of nutritional studies show low carb diets working for weight loss because a reduction in calories should result in weight lost. So why don’t carbs make you fat? Simple answer, over eating ANY Macronutrient will make you “fat”. In fact, carbs are our muscle tissues preferred form of energy and recovery. Simply put, without dietary carbs your performance/training/recovery will suffer and your body will make glucose (carbs) out of fat stores and amino acids anyway. Typically the more muscle mass one has the more carbs one should/could consume daily. Lastly, it has also been show that those on very low carbohydrate diets tend to have a higher reoccurrence of weight gain, and no one wants that.

Too Much Protein is Bad For Your Kidneys
So much misinformation out there about protein intake and how much is enough or dangerous. We could dive into a very lengthy article specifically about this and the byproducts created within protein metabolism (ammonia and urea), but we will do a quick synopsis. Supposedly in a high protein diet these byproducts will build up over time and cause kidney or liver damage. Well, what actually happens in healthy individuals is that the removal of these two byproducts is simply upregulated, an adaptation similar to any progressive adaptation. If you still question the safety of high protein diets go to and search “protein sparing diet and renal failure” and you will find a study that shows low protein diets in people near renal failure had higher mortality rates that those who had a high protein diet. Now I do think there is a useful intake or top “cap” to this. However, in healthy individuals there is no reason to worry.

Low-Fat Foods Are Always a Better Choice
Food marketing gurus figured this epic debacle out pretty quick. Make any food “low-fat” and market it with a fancy logo on the front usually accompanied by “new” and sell the hell out of it! The general public sees something is low fat and automatically assumes it’s healthier because it has fewer calories. Coupled with the fact that the product is now “low-fat”, most companies add sugar in to keep the taste. Unfortunately the majority of these products were junk to begin with so marking it as low-fat is essentially still selling you low-fat junk. In general, if you are eating high quality foods you will never have to go to the “low-fat” product. Plus by going low fat you could be missing out on many crucial fatty acids, which help aid in cell repair, growth and various immune responses.

Don’t Eat Past 7PM…..or whatever time “they” say
This one is accompanied by so much bro science: insulin like growth factor, growth hormone levels, anabolic, catabolic blah, blah, blah. Eating carbs or other foods past 7pm will not turn you into a Gremlin or make you fat. In fact “starving” yourself by not eating enough could have a detrimental return on fat storage. I believe this myth came into existence because so many of us like to snack on “bad” items late in the evening. Put me near Ice Cream around 9pm and its over! I digress. So, simply saying, “don’t eat those bad items” would have worked just as well here. Bottom line is you need to hit your macronutrient goals for the day regardless of when you eat.

Eating More Frequently Boosts Your Metabolism
This is a very common myth to hear spurted about by health “experts”. Tell you what, eat more food more often and tell me what happens in 3 months. You will gain weight, bottom line. This myth has taken good advice and simply blown it out of proportion. To capitalize on many factors it would be beneficial to eat a protein rich meal every 3-4 hours and I could make the argument that my “metabolism” may increase, because of proteins’ thermogenic effect and because you may be adding lean muscle mass by doing so. Yet, by no means is aimlessly eating more often going to boost my metabolism. If you asked me order of importance in nutrition, meal timing would be last. Improve Quality and Quantity first and then worry about fine tuning things with meal timing.

Hopefully now you can arm yourself with some myth-busting knowledge, avoid all the magazine hoopla, and actually get some results. Be committed to making small changes each week and you will see continued success. – Mike Grillo, DFM Director of Trainer Education