Caribbean Style Rice & Beans

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Ingredients:

  • Long Grain Rice – 2 cups; thoroughly rinsed until water runs clear
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil – 2 tbs
  • Red Onion – 1/2 medium; diced
  • Garlic Cloves – 4-5; minced
  • Mushroom Caps – 4 small; sliced
  • Bell Pepper – 1/2; diced
  • Fresh Bay Leaves x 2
  • Fresh Thyme – 1 tbs
  • Vegetable broth bouillon cube x1
  • Coconut Milk – 19oz can
  • Water – 3 cups
  • Red Kidney Beans – 190z can; drained & thoroughly rinsed
  • Creole Seasoning – 4+ tbs
  • Salt & Pepper – a few dashes

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Instructions:

Heat a large sauté pan or skillet with on medium/ low heat. Wait a of couple minutes for the pan to heat up, then add the 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. After the oil has time to heat, toss in the red onion and minced garlic. Shortly after, include the bell pepper, mushrooms, and fresh thyme. Stir it all around and add a dash of salt and black pepper.

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Now its time to add the long grain rice that you have washed extremely thoroughly. Even it all out then pour 3 cups of water into the pan. The coconut milk is then added along with the vegetable broth bouillon cube, 4+ tablespoons of creole seasoning (I love this seasoning so I don’t hold back), and the rinsed red kidney beans. Finally, add the 2 fresh bay leaves and bring it to a simmer.

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Cover and reduce heat, stiring freuquently to prevent burning, adding water if necessary. It takes about 20-25 minutes for the rice to cook and water to evaporate, at which point you’ll be left with a creamy rice thats not only delicious and nutritious, but also free of animal products. Do not forget to remove the bay leaves prior to serving.

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Creole Seasoning Blend: 

  • 2 tbs Onion Powder
  • 2 tbs Garlic Powder
  • 2 tbs Dried Basil
  • 2 tbs Dried Oregano
  • 1 tbs Dried Thyme
  • 1 tbs Black Pepper
  • 1 tbs White Pepper
  • 1 tbs Cayenne Pepper
  • 5 tbs Paprika
  • 3 tbs Salt

creole seasoning

In a small bowl, combine all of the above ingredients. Store in an air tight container.

You may be able to find this seasoning already made up at your grocery store, likely in the international isle. I did not have such luck, but easily picked up all the herbs and spices at bulk barn.

 

 

 

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Is it necessary?

Having little money/ being broke ever since I left home has forced me to put things into perspective in terms of what is necessary when it comes to my personal fitness.

Things were simple when I first started exercising about 12 years ago. I worked out at home and scaled back my calorie consumption. I wasn’t paying for a gym membership and I was consuming little calories that came from food my mom bought. I dropped -too much- weight and found myself having to re-evaluate the angle I was taking.

I later joined a gym located around the corner from my house. It was one of the half dozen weight rooms ran by the city of Brampton in their recreational department. In addition, I eventually smartened up when it came to nutrition — or so I thought.

Fast forward a little futher and I am paying for a gym membership and have begun picking up my own groceries; because eating copious amounts of lean chicken and turkey with rice and broccoli is the only way to get fit (rolls eyes so hard they almost fall out). A couple of decent chicken breasts are easily 10 bucks; which adds up mighty quick when that is the bulk of your diet.

My time spent on fitness websites were at an all time high, gawking over all the amazing physiques telling myself I will look like that one day. Heck! I may even compete. Before I could even think about that however, I needed supplements, lots of glorious supplements!!!

Of course whey protein was the first to be added, then branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), followed by L-Arginine, Beta Alanine, creatine, and caffiene. I even wrote a post about it all. My once zero dollars spent on supplements easily became 100-130$ every 4-5 weeks.

Wake up call

At the end of fast tracking a second diploma in early 2016 I found myself with a lot of debt, and jobs that paid me little or offered few hours. I couldn’t spend money unnecessarily without it coming back to bite me in the ass. There were days where I had to decide to put gas in my car or groceries in my fridge. I remember pulling to the side of the road one afternoon and cried as I fought anxiety and tried to figure out how the hell I am going to keep it together.

At this point my purchasing of supplements days were long gone. After 3-4 years of taking supplements I had no choice but to put it to rest until I was in a more stable financial situation. My days of eating chicken and turkey breasts were also behind me. Meat had always grossed me out, I just got it in my head that it was the best way to be lean and fit. Now, without a bunch of money to waste on dead carcasses; I began eating more beans, lentils, rice, pastas, and even bread.

Funny thing is, my strength did not deteriorate; if anything it increased. Is it possible the supplements weren’t doing much and I simply wasn’t giving my body what it needed from food? Yes, yes it is. Is it also possible that eating a plethora amount of animal products isn’t the optimal diet for a weightlifter? Yes ma’am, thats what I have come to believe.

Now I know this post comes with no hard core facts, just personal opinion. Take from it what you may. Im simpy suggesting you don’t waste your money on a bunch of supplements. If anything supplement your deficiencies, while considering the time of year. For example, I take Vitamin D3 drops in the fall/ winter because of the lack of sunlight.

As for the meat — I honestly believe it’s not good for us humans. Maybe 1-2 times a week; but not every meal, every day. Without getting into the science and health facts, to me eating more plant based foods just makes sense. From my experience I feel better, my skin looks better, and I carry the most muscle mass I ever have, all while spending less on groceries.

What are your thoughts?

 

 

If the food doesn’t kill you; the packaging might

greasy fast food

The other day I caved and bought myself fast food. The usual guilt I feel when putting hydrogenated deep fried shit into my body started to occur about a quarter the way into eating. Only recently however has this guilt found a partner; one that equally concerns me – the packaging thats used to contain the food.

PFCs/ PFASs

“PFCs” can be an abbreviation for perfluorinated chemicals; or a subset of perfluorinated chemicals called perfluorcarbons; or it can also stand for perfluorinated compounds.
The abbreviation PFASs (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) is used alternatively to collectively describe PFOAs and PFOSs and other chemicals in this group (www.epa.gov, 2016).

Fluorine

If you’re familiar with the periodic table, you may recall the chemical element fluorine.
Fluorine is a dangerously reactive univalent poisonous gaseous halogen, it is pale yellow-green and is the most chemically reactive and electronegative of all the elements (lenntech.com, 1998-2017).

PFC’s are an organofluorine compound, which means it contains only carbon-fluorine bonds. They are used because of their hydrophobic (water-repellant) and lipophobic (oil/ fat resistant) properties. Their carbon-fluorine bonds makes them highly resistant to degradation (Schaider et al., 2017).

Pizza box

PFASs have been extensively used in water-, stain-, and oil-resistant consumer products, cookware, paints, waxes, fire-fighting foams, and polishes (Wu et al., 2015; Renner, 2001; Seacat et al., 2002). They have also been discovered in carpeting, carpet cleaners, upholstery, outdoor apparel, and food contact materials (FCMs) (Schaider et al., 2017; Kotthoff et al., 2015; Liu et al., 2015; Guo et al., 2009).

Certain PFASs and PFOSs and other chemicals were phased out voluntarily by major US manufacturers due to concerns of adverse health effects. However, these chemicals are still produced globally and continue to be imported to the U.S. (Schaider et al., 2017; U.S. Environmental Procession Agency., 2010/2015).

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, scientists detected PFASs in over 98% of the thousands of blood samples collected. Unfortunately for us, these chemicals are bioaccumulative and remain in our bodies for a long period of time.

crazy kid eating fast food

PFCs bind to proteins and are distributed mainly to the blood serum, kidney, and liver (Lau et al., 2007). Numerous studies have found correlations between exposures to PFASs and kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, low birth weight, decreased sperm count, immunotoxicity in children, and pregnancy induced hypertension (Schaider et al., 2017; Barry et al., 2013; Fei et al., 2007; Stein et al., 2009; Joensen et al., 2009; Lopez-Espinosa et al., 2012; Grandjean et al., 2012; Vested et al., 2013). These chemicals have also been associated with high cholesterol and uric acid, as well as neurological effects, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) among children (Wu et al., 2015; Hoffman et al., 2010).

PFASs and FCMs

In 2014 and 2015, 407 samples of food packaging at U.S. fast food restaurants were collected and tested for detectable fluorine (F) concentrations by Schaider et al., 2017. The samples were divided into 6 categories: food contact paper (e.g. sandwich wrappers an pastry bags), non-contact paper (e.g. outer bags), food contact paperboard (e.g. boxes for fries and pizza), paper cups (e.g. for hot or cold drinks), other beverages (e.g. milk and juice containers), and miscellaneous (e.g. lids and applesauce containers).

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Of the 407 samples, 33% had detectable total F concentrations, ranging from 16 to 800nmol of F/cm2. However, consider this – 16nmol of F/cm2 is equal to 30µg of F/dm2. This is the acceptable level of detection (LOD) according to the US guidelines. This acceptable LOD is buzz lightyears above the Danish Ministry of Environment and Foods guideline of 0.35µg of F/dm2 for total organic fluorine (Schaider et al., 2017; Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark., 2015). With that said – they detected PFASs in 100% of the samples collected with total F concentrations below the LOD.

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The amount of PFASs that migrates from FCMs into our food is dependant on the amount, type, and chain length of PFASs used, the type of food (water -vs fat-based), the temperature, and the contact time. (Schaider et al., 2017; Begley et al., 2008; Yuan et al., 2016).

Presently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves more than 90 unique monomer and polymer PFAS’s for use in FCMs, including 20 PFASs to impart oil, grease, and/or water resistance.

Conclusion/ Summary

To conclude, food contact materials (FCMs) consist of perfluoronated chemicals (PFCs) -alternativey called PFASs. They’re used because they are highly resistant to degradation, as well as their water-, stain- and oil-resistant properties.

These chemicals make their way into food and there are numerous concerns of adverse health effects, including kidney cancer, and ADHD. Exposure to PFASs is especially relevent for kids since 1/3 of U.S. children consume fast food daily (Vilkraman et al., 2015).

Schaider et al., 2017 collected over 400 FCM samples from various fast food restaurants in the United States. 33% had dectedable fluorine levels above the U.S. standards of 30µg of F/dm2. However, this standard is undeniably greater than the Danish standard of .35µg of F/dm2. With that said, all of the samples tested had detectable levels of fluorine.

 

References

Barry, V.; Winquist, A.; Steenland, K. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) exposures and incident cancers among adults living near a chemical plant. Environ. Health Perspect. 2013, 121 (11-12), 1313-1318.

Fact Sheet: 2010/2015 PFOA Stewardship Program; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Washington, DC (http://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-manging-chemicals-under-tsca/fact-sheet-20102015-pfoa-stewardship-program) (accessed July 9, 2016).

Fei, C.; McLaughlin, J.K.; Tarone, R. E.; Olsen, J. Perfluorinated chemicals and fetal growth: A study with the Danish National Birth Cohort. Environ. Health Perspect. 2007, 115 (11), 1677-1682.

Fluorine-F.; Lenntech, B.V, 1998-2017 (www.lenntech.com/periodic/elements/f/htm) (accessed July 4, 2017).

Guo, Z.; Liu, X.; Krebs, K. Perfluorocarboxylic acid content in 116 articles of commerce. EPA/600/R-09/033; Office of Research and Development, National Risk Management Research Laboratory, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Research Triangle Park, NC, 2009.

Grandjean, P.; Andersen, E. W.; Budtz-Jorgensen, E.; Nielsen, F.; Molbak, K.; Weihe, P.; Heilmann, C. Serum vaccine antibody concentrations in children exposed to perfluorinated compounds. JAMA, J. Am. Med. Assoc. 2012, 307 (4), 391-397.

Hoffman, K.; Webster, T. F.; Weinberg, J.; Vieira, V. M.; Weisskopf, M. G. Exposure to polyfluoroalkyl chemicals and attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder in US children 12-15 years of age. Environ. Health Perspect. 2010, 118, 1762-1767.

Joensen, U. N.; Bossi, R.; Leffers, H.; Jensen, A. A.; Skakkebaek, N. E; Jorgensen, N. Do perfluoroalkyl compounds impair human semen quality? Environ. Health Perspect. 2009, 117 (6), 923-927.

Kotthoff, M.; Muller, J.; Jurling, H.; Schlummer, M.; Fiedler, D. Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances in consumer products. Environ. Sci. Pollut. Res. 2015, 22 (9), 14546-14559.

Lau, C.; Anitole, K.; Hodes, C.; Lai, D.; Pfahles-Hutchens, A.; Seed, J. Perfluoroalkyl acids: a review monitoring and toxicological findings. Toxicol. Sci. 2007, 99, 336-394.

Liu, X.; Guo, Z.; Folk, E. E.; Roache, N.F. Determination of fluorotelomer alcohols in selected consumer products and preliminary investigation of their fate in the indoor environment. Chemosphere 2015, 129, 81-86.

Lopez-Espinosa, M.-J.; Mondal, D.; Armstrong, B.; Bloom, M. S.; Fletcher, T. Thyroid function and perfluoroalkyl acids in children living near a chemical plant. Environ. Health Perspect. 2012. 120 (7). 1036-1041.

Renner, R., 2001. Growing concern over perfluorinated chemicals. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2001. 35, 154-160.

Schaider, L.A.; Balan, S.A.; Blum, A.; Andrews, D.Q.; Strynar, M.J.; Dickinson, M.E.; Lunderberg, D.M.; Lang, J.R.; Peaslee, G.F. Fluorinated Compounds in U.S. Fast Food Packaging. Environ. Sci. Technol. Lett. 2017, 105-111.

Seacat, A.M.; Thomford, P.J.; Hansen, K.J.; Olsen, G.W.; Case, M.T.; Butenhoff, J.L. Subchronic toxicity studies on perfluorooctanesulfonate potassium salt in cynomolgus monkeys. Toxicol. Sci. 2002, 68, 249-264.

Stein, C. R.; Savitz, D. A.; Dougan, M. Serum levels of perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctane sulfonate and pregnancy outcome. Am. J. Epidemiol. 2009, 170 (7), 837-846.

Vested, A.; Ramlau-Hansen, C. H.; Olsen, S. F.; Bonde, J. P.; Kristensen, S. L.; Halldorsson, T. I.; Becher, G.; Haug, L. S.; Earnst, E. H.; Toft, G. Associations of in utero exposure to perfluorinated alkyl acids with human semen quality and reproductive hormones in adult men. Environ. Health Perspect. 2013, 121 (4), 453-458.

What are PFCs and how do they relate to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs)?; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2016 (https://www.epa.gov/pfas/what-are-pfcs-and-how-do-they-relate-and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances-pfass) (accessed July 2, 2017).

Wu, X.M.; Bennett, D.H.; Calafat, A.M.; Kato, K.; Strynar, M.; Andersen, E.; Moran, R.E.; Tancredi, D.J.; Tulve, N.S.; Hertz-Picciotto, I. Serum concentrations of perfluorinated compounds (PFC) among selected populations of children and adults in California. Elsevier Environmental Research 2015, 136, 264-273.

 

Recipe: Curry Chickpea

Basmati Rice – 1 cup+
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – 1 tbsp
Red Onion – 1 Small or Half a Medium; diced
Small Garlic Cloves – 3 Large or 5 to 6 Small Cloves; minced
Bell Pepper (red, yellow or green) – Half; sliced
Salt and Pepper – a few shakes
Curry Paste (red, yellow or green) – 2 tbsp
Coconut Milk – 1 can
Tomato – 1 small; diced
Cumin – 1 tbsp
Crushed Cayenne – 1 level tbsp *optional
Soya Sauce – 2 tbsp
Brown Sugar – 2 tbsp
Lime – 1; juiced
Chick Peas – half a can; drained and thoroughly rinsed
Basil Leaves – 3 Leaves; dried or fresh

Curry Dish
Not the best photo, but I promise it tastes awesome.

I rarely eat meat, and I do my best to limit my intake of dairy products. With that said, while I wouldn’t consider myself vegan, I do try to avoid animal products as much as possible. This leaves me searching for nutritious and satisfying meals that are easy to make and won’t empty my wallet. Thankfully this hasn’t been hard to do and I have managed to master (I think so anyways) a few solid recipes.

The recipe I want to share today is a Chickpea Curry Dish. I have listed the ingredients in the order in which they should be added to a large skillet; except for the rice, which should be cooked separately – ideally in a rice cooker.

I find it easiest to dice, mince, and slice all of the veggies, and have all the ingredients ready to go before starting the cooking process. You can heat up the skillet on medium / low high heat while cutting your vegetables, adding the oil after it has been heated.

After adding the extra virgin olive oil, toss in the diced red onions and minced garlic cloves. Let this fry for a couple minutes, then add the sliced bell pepper. I prefer to use green bell peppers but its completely up to you. Add a few shakes of salt and pepper on top of the veggies and make sure to stir/ flip it around.

Next step is to add the curry paste. Please note the word paste – not sauce! I like to use red – but again it is up to you what colour you want to incorporate. Toss in 2 tbsp and stir it around the pan and the vegetables. Shortly after, add the can of coconut milk and continue to stir until the colour become homogenous.

Toss in the diced tomato and add a tbsp of cumin. I love cumin and it certainly couples well with the curry paste to add even more flavour. On that note, I also recommend adding some crushed cayenne or chilli flakes to add some heat; but how much, if any, is your choice. Afterwards, add the soya sauce, brown sugar, and the juice from 1 lime into the mix. Give it a good stir then finally add the half can of chickpeas (I find a full can to be way too much) and 3 basil leaves. Let this sit, stirring occasionally for 15-20 minutes.

Serve in a bowl with a side of rice and enjoy!

Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) Training

Occlusion-Training

What is it?

Blood flow restriction (BFR) is a training strategy involving the use of wraps or cuffs placed proximally around a limb; with the aim of maintaining arterial flow while occluding venous return during exercise (Scott et al. 2015). In layman’s terms this means that blood is flowing into the muscle; but none, or very little is getting out.

How is it performed?

A popular method is to use elasticated knee wraps and wrap them around the upper thighs or upper arms. A perceived wrap tightness of 7/10 will result in complete venous, but not arterial occlusion and has been used in a study by Lowery et al. (2014).

One must ensure the wraps are not too tight nor too lose. Loenneke et al. (2014) found that pressure appeared to increase muscle activation from 40-50% arterial occlusion but did not result in further increases at higher pressure. In other words, if they’re too tight
you will not elicit any benefits and you’ll increase risk of injury, if they are not tight enough blood easily leaves the muscle, eliminating the purpose of the wraps. Many strategies have been reported, however relatively light load resistant training using 20-30% 1RM is most common. Performing 4-6 sets to failure of exercises such as leg extensions, hamstring curls, squats, lunges, biceps curls, and triceps extensions.

Why use this technique?

Takarada et al (2002) did a study on a group of 17 male athletes and divided them into 3 groups – low intensity with occlusion (LIO); low intensity without occlusion (LI), and normal training.

The LIO group had both sides of their upper thighs trained with the proximal portions being compressed by a specially designed elastic belt. The subjects performed bilateral knee extensions for 4 sets at approximately 50% of their predetermined 1RM to failure, with 30 second rest intervals. Sessions lasted no longer than 10 minutes. The LI group then had to match the number of reps performed by the occlusion group. This was completed twice a week for 8 weeks, totalling 16 sessions.

This study aimed to measure several things including changes in muscle strength through measurement of isokinetic strength at preset angular velocities, and measurement of isometric torque at a knee angle of 80 degrees. They estimated changes in muscle endurance by having the subjects perform 50 repeated contractions of leg extensions and comparing the average value of peak torque during the last ten contractions compared to the initial ten contractions.

In addition, an MRI was used to retrieve cross-sectional images of the thigh in order to determine if an increase in strength was due to muscle hypertrophy or neuromotor adaptation. EMG signals were recorded from the vastus lateralis muscle as an indicator of muscle fibre recruitment during isometric torque exertion. Tests and image results were recorded prior to and after the 16 sessions.

The results of this study are undeniable as dramatic increases occurred within the LIO group in comparison to the LI and untrained control group. Percentage increases in strength after training were 14.3 (2.0)%, and 3.2 (2.3)% for the LIO and LI groups, respectively. Significant improvements in muscle endurance was seen in the LIO group only, which was believed to be caused by metabolic adaptations in the muscle fibres instead of an increased resistance to fatigue in the nervous system.

Both pre and post training MRI images were taken of the LIO group only. After the 8 weeks of vascular occlusion there was an approximate 15% increase of the cross-sectional area of the knee extensors. These results suggest that the increase in strength after occlusion training is due primarily to muscle hypertrophy.

Since hormones basically control everything, I want to quickly refer to a separate study previously conducted by Takarada et. al (2000). This study looked at growth hormone after low-intensity exercise with occlusion. The protocol was very similar to the one mentioned above, but used just 20% of the subjects 1RM.

The results of this study indicated that exercise with occlusion can provoke strong endocrine responses even at low intensities, as growth hormone increased 290 times as high as that before exercise. This is a significantly greater increase than that reported by Kraemer et al. (1990) for high-intensity resistant exercise with a short rest period (typical bodybuilding routine).

Conclusion

Blood flow restriction is a training strategy that can elicit major increases in muscle size and strength, as well as improvements in muscle endurance using just 20-50% 1RM. Major increases in growth hormone, peaking 15 minutes after the completion of low intensity resistance exercise with occlusion have been reported. This increase is even greater than that found after high-intensity resistance exercise without occlusion.

How I Use BFR

I recently employed this technique in my own training. Thus far I have completed 4 barbell back squat sessions using 35% of my 1RM, and 2 barbell front squat sessions using 30% 1RM. I performed 15-20 reps for 4-5 sets and keep my rest period under 1 minute. Since I do not have access to the special cuffs I have been using elasticated wraps and follow the suggested perceived wrap tightness of 7/10. Since the studies I have read kept the total occluded time within 10 minutes, I do as well; only removing the wraps after I have completed the exercise session.

It is difficult for me to measure if increases in muscular strength, size, and/or endurance is solely attributed to BFR as I train in weightlifting 3-4 times/ week and recently got back on my rollerblades since the weather has gotten more tolerable up in the North. However, I do plan on re-testing my 1RM back squat after a few more sessions, as prior to utilizing BFR my numbers were plateauing. Simply from the way my legs look and feel after these 6 sessions, coupled with the results of these studies, I am confident this will be the catalyst to any increases in my performance.

 

 

 

References

Scott, B. R., Loenneke, J. P., Slattery, K. M. & Dascombe, B. J. (2015). Blood flow restricted exercise for athletes: a review of the evidence. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport.

Lowery, R. P., Joy, J. M., Loenneke, J. P., de Souza, E. O., Machado, M., Dudeck, J. E. & Wilson, J. M. (2014). Practical blood flow restriction training increases muscle hypertrophy during a periodized resistance training programme. Clinical Physiology and Functional Imaging, 34(4), 317-21.

Loenneke, J. P., Kim, D., Fahs, C. A., Thiebaud, R. S., Abe, T., Larson, R. D., Bemben, D. A. & Bemben, M. G. (2014a). Effects of exercise with and without different degrees of blood flow restriction on torque and muscle activation. Muscle and Nerve.

Takarada, Y., Sato, Y., Ishii, N., (2002). Effects of resistance exercise combined with vascular occlusion on muscle function in athletes. European Journal of Applied Physiology.

Takarada, Y., Nakamura, Y., Aruga, S., Onda, T., Miyazaki, S., Ishii, N. (2000). Rapid increase in plasma growth hormone after low-intensity resistance exercise with vascular occlusion. Journal of Applied Physiology.

Kraemer, W. J., L. Marchitelli, S. E. Gordon, E. Harman, J. E. Dziados, R. Mello, P. Frykman, D. McCurry, S. J. Fleck. (1990). Hormonal and growth factor response to heavy resistance exercise protocols. Journal of Applied Physiology.

Personal Training – why you may want to consider it a side job

Personal-Trainer-2

I could of sworn I found “my calling.” After losing weight and gaining strength I wanted nothing more than to help others do the same. So I began my journey towards becoming a personal trainer. 7+ years later and I have learned so much and can’t help but wonder if I would have chosen a different route had I known what I know now.

I earned my diploma in fitness and health promotion in 2011. I was proud of myself as that program was challenging and demanded a lot from me. I finished it within the 2 years and within that time I attained a personal trainer certificate (that cost a lot of money). Like many students, when I graduated I thought things would be easier in terms of finding suitable work and making money – it wasn’t.

Finding a job that didn’t require a degree and 5 years experience was immensely difficult. I was hired by a commercial gym – what I thought would be a solid opportunity; yet quickly realized you’d have to give up part of your soul, because everything was about revenue and dollar signs. They expected me to put on a shirt with their name on it, walk their gym floors, perform BS fitness appraisals, and try to sell their over priced packages; all the meanwhile making absolutely nothing unless I sell. The best part was being expected to cold call old members (am I the only one who really doesn’t see the benefit in this?) in hopes they would re-sign and buy personal training. The one meeting I sat in on discussed nothing of client success, needs, programming; or anything truly important to the clients – just how much money was made.

Needless to say that didn’t last long and I moved on to work for gyms in the municipal setting, which proved to be much better; but not without its challenges. You will still need to build a clientele. Personal training is the one service that people not only have to pay for, but they have to do the work as well. Sure, the trainer writes the programs, ensures proper form and execution – but the client has to show up.

Your income will vary from week to week, month to month; until you’ve built up a reliable and consistent clientele. Keep in mind that even those most committed will go on vacation, get sick, move, or have other commitments that take the forefront. With proper notice this will leave you with gaps in your schedule, and less money in your account.

Another thing to consider is how much of a cut your employer will be taking from you. Some places may ensure you get consistent hours working as part of their fitness staff, but will still take more than half of your hourly personal training wage; which may leave you wondering why you don’t just work for yourself.

I explored that option after realizing I could make $50+/hr instead of 15 or 20. Here’s the thing – I don’t have my own facility and driving around can get costly. The time it takes to get from one location to the next can be exhausting and ultimately cost you money in gas and time. Not to mention, if you don’t target areas of higher income it is very likely you’ll be limited to the number of people who can and will pay for your service. I did start up my own small business and saw some success but ultimately learned it is so much easier to have the clients come to you.

With that said, I looked into renting space in order to conduct my own group fitness classes and one on one personal training. You will have to pay a facility rental fee for each hour you use their space. Unless you have the numbers, for the first several months at least, you will be making very little or even lose money. Thats not to say you can’t find success in this profession; I just want to warn you that it isn’t easy in any sense of the word.

What about privately owned gyms? I’ve dipped my toes into those as well. I’ve applied and interviewed at multiple locations around the GTA and Toronto. What I have come to learn is that the bottom line is business. People are in it to make money. I get it – we have to survive. These gyms (and others) have tiers of personal trainers. The more money you put into “earning” certificates, the higher level trainer you become with better pay. It doesn’t matter how much you study on your own time – you must spend hundreds of dollars to get the credentials that will allow you to move up in wage and status. I suppose you can find such thing in many other professions.

So, lets remove some of the pressure and try working for a not-for-profit organization. I did just that, and yet again gained no job security or steady income. Not-for-profit organizations have extremely tight budgets and often rely on government grants and donations to keep programs running. With that said, your wage as a personal/group trainer will be way less than the effort you put into it. This is when your passion to want to help others must out weigh the need to generate income. If your anything like me, you’ll wish it was that simple; but with creditors at your door and rent payments to make – it’s devastating getting paid less than you deserve/require.

Another thing worth mentioning is the hours you’ll work – they will (more than likely) be all over the place. Unless you become so popular that people work around your schedule, you’ll have to work around the clients. This means getting up at 5am and training clients before work; possibly return during the lunch hour, and then again late at night. This is most definitely not a 9-5 weekday job; not even close.

I do not mean to come of as a negative ninny. If you’re passionate enough and put in the work, you can find success. At the very least I can say that I have accomplished what I wanted to do – help dozens of people improve their lifestyle, lose weight, gain strength, and increase their independency. I have had many moments over the past 7+ years that reminded me why I wanted to make this a career. I am not one to give up but I have learned the value of having a back up plan and not isolating yourself to one source of income. It’s a smart thing to have no matter what profession you are in, especially personal training.

Keep Moving.