Training For Fat Loss

Training for Fat Loss


Training for Fat Loss
Written by Calvin Sun

I’ve spent the better part of a decade earning a living by training clients and working with athletes. In that time, the biggest misconceptions that I have seen over and over have been related to training for fat loss. I hate to generalize, but most women (and some men) believe that they should avoid all weight training and only perform “cardio” and abdominal exercises to get their ideal physique. I see this manifest in our group classes in the form of going through the motions during the strength portion and then only focusing on the conditioning portion of the workout – and often followed up by a few sets of sit-ups or something similar. My guess is that if you are guilty of this approach, you probably haven’t seen very good results with it. Maybe you lost a few pounds initially, but now you have plateaued and you may have even gained a pound or two. This faulty approach is perpetuated by novice trainers, workout routines published in “fitness” magazines, and a few common exercise myths. In previous blog posts, Mark and I have addressed both the myth of the fat-burning zone and the myth of spot reduction. Take a minute to go back and review them if you aren’t familiar.

The hour or so you spend in the gym accounts for a very small portion of your daily caloric expenditure. Unless you are a professional athlete that trains and practices for several hours each day, the large majority of your daily caloric expenditure comes from your Basal Metabolic Rate (or BMR), the calories burned to sustain your bodily functions on a daily basis. One of the most effective ways of increasing your BMR is through increasing the amount of lean muscle mass on your body. This is, of course, only achievable through weight training, preferably in the form of deadlifts, squats, presses, and other multi-joint, compound movements. You see, for every pound of lean muscle that you add, you will burn approximately 50 calories more per day. That might not sound like much but keep in mind if you swap out 5 pounds of fat for 5 pounds of muscle, you will burn close to 300 extra calories a day before you even hit the gym. Furthermore, intense weight training results in an afterburn effect where your metabolism is elevated for up to 38 hours after your training session. This is known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC, and you can read more about it in Mark’s post here. Doing cardio alone will only decrease your BMR as time goes on. This turns into an uphill battle as your BMR keeps dropping, you’ll need to increase the amount of cardio you do to create the same deficit. Without weight training, you’ll lose muscle which will actually account for some weight loss, and you might even lose a few pounds of fat if your diet is decent, but it’s unlikely you will achieve (or maintain) the level of fat loss you desire.

“Won’t weights make me bulky?”
Getting big and muscular is very hard to do. Just ask any average male. It takes years of hard work, the right training program, and a lot of food . . . it just doesn’t happen by accident. Weight training will add a few pounds of needed lean body mass which will in turn make you leaner and give you a better looking physique. Women simply don’t have the levels of testosterone needed to support the type of muscle growth you fear. Unless you are taking anabolic steroids, gaining too much muscle is probably the least of your worries. And if you are taking steroids, gaining muscle is still probably the least of your issues.

“Marathon runners are skinny, shouldn’t I run to become thinner?
That makes as much sense as playing basketball to get taller. This logical fallacy is commonplace in fitness as many people are quick to make hasty generalizations. In any sport, genetics certainly play an important role. The best runners are thin because skinny people make for better runners. Just as the best basketball players are tall, the best runners are thin. In fact, many people who take up running end up “skinny fat”, a physique denoted by a lack of lean muscle mass and often accompanied by a noticeable amount of fat or “doughy” appearance. These people are known to complain about being unable to lose the last the few pounds of fat around their midsection while sipping on a fruit smoothie or over a lunch of whole grain pasta.

So how do I go about increasing my lean body mass and improving my body composition?
Definitely focus on the strength component in our group workouts. If you want to get more experienced with lifting, consider signing up for the Performance Clinic. You’ll focus on the core lifts, increasing strength, lean body mass, and overall performance. Many of the clients in the Performance Clinic have leaned out while getting stronger at the same time. Also, look into signing up for a nutritional consult or even the upcoming nutrition clinics. You’ll get some useful instruction on how to dial in your nutrition so that you can improve your body composition and performance with a sustainable approach.

Take a look at your current approach to training and be honest about how well it has worked for you. If you are less than 100% satisfied with your results, I hope you’ll consider my recommendations. And as always, feel free to consult any of your Invictus coaches if you need further guidance.




The Quick Fix (8-6-2012)

So i was up watching some clips of the 2012 games and getting all motivated for the next week of training and coaching when my Dad called to check in on how my week went. We chatted for a bit and the Games came up which led into a flurry of discussion about the athletes, there backgrounds and the level of athleticism that was brought to Los Angeles this year. Long story short i started thinking about the road that each and every one of these people had been on before they got to show the world what they were made of with a sold out record audience at the Home Depot center. Each and every one of those athletes display a tremendous amount of work capacity but even more so they represent the road less taken as well as the will and desire to just perservere. QUITTING is not an option for these men and women because they have chosen a life of success. A life of honor. A life worth living. Day in and day out they have it in the back of there mind that no matter what they will not stop pushing forward whether its CrossFit or anything else that they desire and there rewards are FRUIT. No not the sweet yummy stuff you eat.. drool. Im talking about the even tastier FRUIT of there labor. You see these athletes young and old(er) dont expect a quick fix or an easy path. They have come to grips with the fact that life is a battle and they are willing to fight for what they want to get out of this energy sucking, relentless, cold hearted war we are in. If you want to be  the best. Look the best. Feel the best. Understand that there is NO quick fix. Its a lifelong battle day in and day out. Everything you want thats worth anything must be dilligently fought for day by day, week by week, month by month and YES, year by year!!! If your not ready to accept this reality life will eat you up and spit you out. It can destroy your health(mind, body and soul), relationships, career paths, childrens future, and pretty much anything you dont want to fight for. Ask yourself today are you willing to put on the armor of passion. The helmet of determination. The sword of Dilligence, and live a life of honor? or are you just looking for a Quick Fix…



An Almost Paleo Week

Written by George Economou and Sarah Murray

I say “almost paleo” because there are a few caveats. First, I use salt. Not a lot, but I do use it. I also use a little balsamic vinegar on my salad. If you want a completely paleo salad, you can substitute a little lemon juice and pepper for the vinegar. There are one or two other little “cheats” and I’ve annotated them as such in the recipes.

Sunday is a big food day. I think one of the keys to success with any lifestyle (I prefer to call it a lifestyle, since being on a “diet” implies deprivation of some sort) is planning ahead. We plan out our meals for the week and stock up on all of our groceries. The grocery list below typically lasts us a week, and is a good example of how we will develop our plan.

Grocery List

This is a comprehensive list. Many things you may already have in your fridge/pantry, but this list will ensure you are ready for the entire week even if you have a completely empty kitchen at the moment. The staples we keep in stock at all times are starred. Additionally, George and I are members of the Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA ( Basically, we pay $200 and for three months we get a bucket of fresh locally-grown fruits and vegetables each week. It’s a great organization, and we pick our bucket up at the farmer’s market in Hillcrest every Sunday, which gives us an opportunity to buy the rest of our fruits and vegetables from local organic farmers.

Fruits and Vegetables

Butternut squash Apples* Broccoli Berries* Parsnips (4-5) Sweet potatoes (2-3) Carrots* Celery* Spaghetti squash Avocado (2-3) Spinach (1 bunch) Salad (I use spring mix)* Sundried tomatoes (in olive oil and garlic) Artichoke hearts (in water, 1 can) Bananas* Japanese eggplant (the little skinny ones, 1-2) Pumpkin (2 cans) Fresh spices Fresh basil* Cilantro Fresh sage Fresh rosemary Garlic (several bulbs)* Onions (yellow, 3)*


Whole chicken Shrimp (raw jumbo, 1 lb) Eggs* Bacon Chicken breast Ground buffalo Ground chicken

Nuts, Seeds, Oils, etc

Slivered almonds (several scoops)* Hazelnuts (few scoops) Nuts/seeds/raisins (combination of cashews, almonds, pecans, pepitas, sunflower seeds, jumbo raisins)* Almond butter* Almond flour* Shredded coconut* Olive oil* Coconut oil* Sesame oil* Cocoa powder*


Kosher salt* Pepper* Paprika* Smoked paprika* Cumin* Cinnamon* Nutmeg* Cloves* Ground ginger* Chili powder* Toasted sesame seeds* Crushed red pepper* Powdered arrowroot* Vanilla (pure, no sugar added—make sure you look specifically for the no-sugar kind)* Pure almond extract* Orange blossom water (you can get this at Indian stores, or you can use pure orange oil/orange extract, available in the same place you get the vanilla)* Liquid smoke*

Sweeteners and Drinks

Coconut milk (1 can, make sure water is NOT an ingredient!) Apple sauce (no sugar added)* Raw honey* Real maple syrup* Coconut water* Mate*


Sunday is a big food day. I think one of the keys to success with any lifestyle (I prefer to call it a lifestyle, since being on a “diet” implies deprivation of some sort) is planning ahead. In addition to picking up all of our groceries for the week (see yesterday’s post for a complete grocery list), I also cook breakfasts and snacks that we can enjoy throughout the week.

Mediterranean Frittata

This is a great dish to make on Sunday and keep in the fridge. You can cut pieces of it to take to the gym/work each morning (or enjoy at home if you’re lucky.) It tastes great cold or heated up!

Cook 3 pieces of bacon until done, but not super crispy (it will continue to cook in the frittata.) We use a broiler pan and put the bacon in the oven at 400*F for about 20 minutes. Place several handfuls of spinach leaves in a microwavable bowl and cook on high for about a minute, until it’s bright green and wilted. Squeeze out any water and pat dry with a paper towel. Cut bacon, sundried tomatoes, and artichoke hearts (drained) into bit size pieces and arrange along with spinach in the bottom of a lightly greased (I use coconut oil) casserole or pie dish. The amount you use is up to you—a good covering of the bottom of the dish is a good rule of thumb. In a bowl, beat 10-12 eggs and mix in 2-3 tsp paprika, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper and a dash of nutmeg. Pour egg mixture slowly over ingredients in pie dish. Bake at 375*F until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The cooking time will vary depending upon how much “stuff” you use and how deep the frittata is—mine took about 35 minutes, but adjust as necessary.

“Granola” Bars

These make good treats to enjoy during the week when you are craving something sweet. Heat some honey and a little water on the stove. Add a few drops of orange oil (or orange blossom water.) Mix in slivered almonds. You can also add coconut and raisins, or any other sorts of nuts, seeds, etc. This is totally a non-exact recipe. You want enough honey mixture to coat the nuts and make the mixture pretty sticky, but not so much that the pieces are swimming in liquid sugar. Grease a mini muffin tin (mini muffin size is ideal, but a regular size one would work as well.) Spoon the mixture into the muffin cups so that they are overflowing. Then use some of that CrossFit muscle to push the mixture tightly into the muffin cups. You may need to add more mixture and push down again. It should be really wedged in there. Bake at 350*F until golden brown.

Pumpkin Pie

This is a Sunday night treat that will last for the week (unless you live with someone who likes to eat multiple pieces per day…) Mix 1½ cups almond flour, ¼ tsp baking soda, ¼ tsp salt, ¼ cup oil (I used avocado), 1 tsp vanilla, 2 Tbsp honey or maple syrup. Press the crumb mixture into a lightly greased pie dish (again, I used coconut oil for the pan.) Make sure you push some of the crumbs against the side of the dish as well, but don’t have them go all the way up to the top of the dish, as that part of the crust may burn slightly if you do. Bake crust at 375*F for approximately 10 minutes, until just lightly toasted. Meanwhile, in a large bowl mix 2 cups canned pumpkin, 3 eggs, 1 cup coconut cream, and 5 Tbsp sweetener (I used maple syrup.) Mix in 2-3 tsp cinnamon, 2 tsp nutmeg, 2 tsp ground ginger, and 1-2 tsp cloves (please note this is a guideline, I probably used a lot more than this since I like spices and didn’t actually measure so feel free to adjust as you desire.) Pour pumpkin mixture into toasted pie crust and bake at 425*F for about 30-35 minutes, or until pumpkin mixture is set (no longer jiggly).

Roast Chicken and Vegetables

This is one of my favorite dishes. It takes a while to cook but is relatively easy and tastes delicious. Wash and cut the following into slightly larger than bite sized pieces:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Parsnips
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Onion
  • Butternut squash

There is no need to peel the potatoes, parsnips or carrots, but I do take the skin off the squash. Place the vegetables into a very large bowl and add 10-20 cloves of garlic (depending on how much you like garlic—I use a lot!) There is no need to crush/chop the garlic. Just put the peeled cloves in whole. Pour about ¼ to ½ cup olive oil over the vegetables and add several teaspoons of kosher salt (the bigger grains) and ground pepper. Add several handfuls of hazelnuts, the fresh sage (rip up into pieces) and all but 3 sprigs of rosemary (pull the needles off the stems so they can be distributed throughout the veggies). Mix well.

Place whole chicken in large roasting pan (make sure you take the bag of stuff out from the inside of the chicken.) Place several pieces of garlic and onion from the vegetable mixture and half a lemon inside the chicken and stuff several garlic cloves and remaining rosemary sprigs under the skin of the chicken (between the meat and the skin). Dump vegetable mixture around chicken, ensuring spices and olive oil get distributed around the pan. Rub several Tbsp olive oil on chicken and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 375*F until a meat thermometer stuck in the meaty part of the chicken registers 180*F (about 1½ – 2 hours, depending on size of the chicken). Baste the chicken and vegetables often to keep them moist and flavorful.

Enjoy this good fall/winter meal, but save room for a piece of that pumpkin pie afterwards. And make sure to carve the leftover chicken and put into a Tupperware with the remaining vegetables for lunch on Monday!


It’s Monday morning. You don’t want to get up. But luckily for you, breakfast is already made (see yesterday’s post). Heat up some frittata and enjoy it with a cup of coffee and a nice glass of water! Pack an apple and some nuts/raisins to snack on at work.

Lunchtime rolls around. You’re starving. Good thing you’ve got the leftover chicken and vegetables from last night. Gosh, this paleo thing is easy huh?

It’s been a long day. You just finished up the 5:30 at Invictus, and it’s now dark. You’re starving, need a shower, and are ready to get home. Grab a coconut water for post-workout recovery and get excited about some buffalo burgers for dinner!

Buffalo Burgers

In a large bowl, mix buffalo meat (or just lean hamburger if you don’t want to do buffalo), 1 egg, a few splashes of liquid smoke (available at most grocery stores), 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp pepper, 1 tsp salt, several handfuls of chopped fresh basil, and several cloves of garlic (chopped). Form into patties and cook on the grill or stove. Serve with a large amount of salad (I used avocado oil and small amount of balsamic vinegar to dress—it may not be completely paleo but if this is the biggest cheat of the day, I figure I’m doing okay). Enjoy fresh fruit (berries are my favorite) for dessert. And hopefully you made enough burgers and salad so you already have lunch tomorrow!


Like yesterday, you’re starting the day off right because you’ve already got your breakfast, lunch, and snacks ready to go. So really the only thing you have to worry about is dinner. Time for some spaghetti!

Spaghetti Squash with Shrimp and Sundried Tomatoes

Cut spaghetti squash in half and scoop out seeds. Place cut-side down in a roasting pan with about an inch of water. Cook at 350*F for about 30-40 minutes. Allow squash to cool slightly and scrape flesh out with a fork (making what looks like spaghetti noodles). Place “noodles” into a bowl and pat with a paper towel to absorb excess water. Meanwhile, chop several handfuls of basil, several cloves of garlic, and lots of sundried tomatoes into small pieces. Cut some broccoli (one large head) into bite-size pieces. Defrost and peel the shrimp. Heat several Tbsp olive oil in a large pan (a wok works great) and add garlic, broccoli, and shrimp. Sauté for several minutes until shrimp are opaque and broccoli is cooked. Add sundried tomatoes, basil, and “noodles”; continue to sauté for another five minutes and then serve.

*Note: Dessert tonight was actually a huge cheat—two large pieces of Marine Corps birthday cake. But on a normal non-birthday night it would be berries and maybe some shredded mint and unsweetened coconut.


So it’s officially hump day, and by this time I’m usually kind of sick of frittata. So this is a good day to make paleo pancakes.

Paleo Pancakes

Mix together ½ cup nut butter (almond works great), ½ cup no-sugar added apple sauce, 2 eggs, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 tsp almond extract and 1 tsp cinnamon. Use coconut oil to grease pan and make pancakes! Serve with fresh berries and a small amount of maple syrup. A hard boiled egg or two on the side is good too—adds a little extra protein.

Lunch is leftover spaghetti squash from last night. Apples, almond butter, and a little trail mix are snacks.

Chicken and Butternut Squash

Cut two to three chicken breasts and one butternut squash into bite size pieces and place in large ceramic baking dish. Drizzle 3 Tbsp honey and 2 Tbsp sesame oil over the chicken and squash, and sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes. Stir to ensure all pieces are coated. Bake at 400*F for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add several chopped green onions, stir, and continue to bake for another 10 minutes, or until squash is squishy and chicken is slightly browned. Serve on a large bed of spring mix salad and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.


Peel and freeze two bananas. Place frozen bananas, about 1 cup coconut water, 1 tsp vanilla, 2 Tbsp cocoa powder, and a few ice cubes in the blender. Blend until there are no ice chunks left (you’ll hear them as you turn the blender off if there are still some in your milkshake). Pour and enjoy. Makes two large milkshakes. For an added treat, whip a little coconut milk (this is why the non-water kind is so essential) and a splash of vanilla and spoon on top—just like whipped cream, except it’s a lot sweeter.


Since pancakes were yesterday, the frittata sounds good again, so some of that works great for breakfast. Add some fruits on the side (blueberries are great!) and you’re ready to face the day. The chicken from last night tastes really good as leftovers, so that’s lunch.

Thai Basil Chicken and Eggplant

This is a tasty dish, and it’s super fast and super easy. Rub olive oil on eggplant(s) and place on baking sheet in broiler. Cook for several minutes until top of eggplant begins to burn. Turn onto opposite side and continue to broil. Rotate as necessary to cook eggplant until very soft and squishy to the touch. Remove eggplant from oven and allow to cool. Then peel skin off and chop eggplant meat (it will be very mushy.) Chop 12-15 cloves of garlic and several green onions. In a large wok or frying pan, heat several Tbsp sesame oil and add garlic and onions. Saute for about 30 seconds and add a pound of ground chicken. Saute for several minutes and then add eggplant. Add 2-5 Tbsp crushed red pepper, 1 tsp fish oil (not paleo, and you can make the dish without it, but I think it adds an extra dimension of flavor) and a tsp or two of salt. Continue to sauté until chicken is thoroughly cooked. There may be a bit of liquid in the pan—if you prefer a less liquidy dish, add a tsp or so of arrowroot powder, which acts as a thickener. Just before you remove the wok from the heat, add about a cup or two of fresh basil leaves (not chopped) and stir. The basil leaves will quickly wilt. Once they do, your dish is done! Serve with steamed broccoli and salad.


It’s Friday—thank goodness. If you have any frittata left, that’s breakfast. If not, grab one of M’s meals and go google stuff at work. Thai basil chicken tastes great as a left over, so lunch is easy.

Din Dins. It’s a cheat night. You’ve been good all week and deserve at least one cheat meal and cheat dessert. If you want to spread the joy, do dinner tonight and save Saturday night for ice cream. As for eating out, remember that you’ve been gluten free. There’s a good chance that going too heavy, too fast will wreck your insides. I recommend one of the following: sushi, gluten free pizza (available at Pizza Fusion), or Mexican (corn tortillas only).


You’ve got the tools to figure out breakfast, lunch and dinner on your own. The only big choice facing you is what dessert to go with. We like ice cream…a lot. Go big or go home, so check out your local grocer and see what flavor of Ben and Jerry’s tickles your fancy (Imagine Whirled Peace and Coffee Heath Bar Crunch are our favorites)!

So there it is, a week of “almost” paleo grocery shopping and eating. Bon Appetit!

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