Balancing Your Nutrition

Lately I feel like a question I receive relatively frequently is how can someone find good balance in their nutrition. This is a question I actually absolutely love to answer because the answer shocks folks most of the time. Now before we get too far into this, if you are looking for a super scientific, peer-reviewed journal type answer in this post – you are going to be disappointed! My goal here is provide some advice and practical information that you can put into every day use!

For starters, a point I would like to make very clear regardless of what you read on articles about the latest “diet approach” the best diet for you is one that you can follow consistently. While each approach might have different advantages, these are typically only manifested in very specific populations. The advice in this article can be applied to whichever approach you have selected for yourself!

Now before we can get to what you came here for, it is important to establish some basic knowledge. The first thing to do when trying to find some sort of balance in your nutrition life is decide what are you trying to accomplish and how many calories are required to reach that goal – most people want the quick fix but fail to realize that different goals require different approaches. For example, when I go into a steady building phase (a.k.a. BULKING for all of my gym bros) I am going to be following different guidelines than I would be if I started to want to lean out. To this point, if your goal is to lose weight you need to burn more calories than you eat and eat more than you burn if you are trying to gain – duh, right? Plain and simple, if you cannot follow the rule that aligns with your goal guess what – NO GAINS FOR YOU!

So how do you know how many calories to be eating past the vague answer of “more/less than you burn”? My recommendation is taking a 2 week food and calorie log to see what/how much you are eating intuitively and take note on what the average amount of calories in is doing to your weight. This is the same exact approach I use when establishing baseline data for my clients and it has not failed me yet! To provide a little bit of a specific example: We have a man that is looking to lose some weight and after tracking for 2 weeks he learns his maintenance calorie level is around the ballpark of 2,000 calories. Given that he is trying to lose weight, lets say he decides to make his goal intake limit at 1,750 calories and accepts that he will make up the rest of his deficit with exercise and cardio (pro tip: this is a good idea ;)). After another two weeks he notices he has lost 3 pounds – he has successfully established a calorie deficit! Simple enough, right?

Now that we know how to determine how many calories we should be eating, where should these calories come from? We have now reached the main event so get the fat-free popcorn ready!

Nutrition is sort of an ever-changing puzzle where your metabolism is the board. It is attempting to find the right combination of energy intake and energy sources to produce mental and physical sustainability. Sometimes you have to place a piece down just to see it doesn’t fit for the puzzle – even if you have to do this more than once eventually you will find the perfect piece to complete the picture.

When trying to decide what foods you can eat and when, starting off with the 80/20 rule will lead you in the right direction. What is the 80/20 rule? Very simply put, eating clean, nutrient dense foods 80% of the time while allowing the other 20% to be much less strict. I practice this approach in my every day life and it not so much a “diet” as it is a lifestyle approach. Now if you have been running all over the internet trying to find the perfect diet, I am sure you are exhausted at hearing by the point the phrase, “its a lifestyle”, because typically the people saying that are already in great shape and have almost unhealthy amounts of dedication to eating cold chicken and rice for every meal daily – it doesn’t have to be that way, I promise!

Another good practice for making sure you are finding balance in your nutrition is implementing the correct supplements. I am a firm believer that after a quality diet pattern has been established, the 80/20 rule for example, supplements do nothing but enhance the results.

Ready to take your fitness game to the next level? If you live in Allen, Dallas, or Plano, make sure to get your free day pass to join Hidden Gym! Become a part of the most motivating place in the DFW area that will help you live a healthier life!

Check out our upcoming events and stay tuned for the next experiences that will challenge you to learn and grow!

Does Meal Frequency Matter

A question I get asked almost weekly, “Coach, do I need to be eating my meals every 2.5-3 hours to see results” or “It has been 4 hours since my last meal, is my metabolism going to stop”. Meal frequency is a topic often discussed in locker rooms and discussion forums alike, so I would like to put an end to all the questions and shed some light on the reality behind increased meal frequency.

First, it is important to differentiate between meal frequency and meal timing. The former referring to the time in between meals (i.e. the “eating every 3 hours” rule), while the latter is referring specifically to the timing of ingesting certain nutrients based on energy demands (eating carbohydrates after a workout to see receive the anabolic effects of insulin). To reiterate, I will be covering meal frequency in this post and plan to crack the code on whether or not there is a scientific backing for this ideology or if it is just another tactic preached by coaches to make program sales.

Out of all the claims made by this approach to dieting, the first that comes to mind is: eating more frequently increases your metabolism! The theory behind this is of course that your body will expend more calories more often to break down food as it is coming through the digestive system more frequently. This increased energy expenditure, or diet-induced thermogenesis was shown in a study involving postprandial thermic effects in dogs (1), however, studies performed on humans failed to show a correlation between the amount of time between meals and a seemingly increased thermogenic effect.

Another claim associated with the one just discussed is one of improved body composition over traditional dieting behaviors. Again, if we look at the literature, we fail to find any evidence supporting this. In a study by Bortz et al., no differences were found while undergoing a 600-calorie deficit diet program with increased meal frequency compared to normal eating behaviors (2).

At this point increased meal frequency seems to be just another fad, right? Well despite the false claims, increased meal frequency does have some practical application in specific populations. For individuals at risk for type II diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, increased meal frequency has been shown to lower fasting blood glucose and insulin, cholesterol and triglycerides, and generally decrease the risk of developing the two diseases previously stated (3) and (4).

So is meal frequency all that important? I will say that it most definitely has its place, but that place is in a very specific population of individuals and not in one that gives you anxiety about eating every three hours on the dot. As long as you are getting in your meals throughout the day and not stuffing yourself about an hour or two before bed, eat when it is convenient for you!

Ready to take your fitness game to the next level? If you live in Allen, Dallas, or Plano, make sure to get your free day pass to join Hidden Gym! Become a part of the most motivating place in the DFW area that will help you live a healthier life!

Check out our upcoming events and stay tuned for the next experiences that will challenge you to learn and grow!

Why Stress is Making Us Fat

This week I am going to speak to a topic I am sure we are all too familiar with – stress. This topic comes at the request of one of my long-term clients, Linda! So without further delay, lets get right into it shall we!

It is no secret that high levels of stress are no good – for more reasons than just one. High levels of chronic stress are associated with higher blood pressure, higher risk of a cardiopulmonary event (i.e. heart attack), lower bone density, and of course, weight gain. So, we can all agree stress is pretty terrible, right? As you have probably assumed by now, in this article I am going to be zeroing in on why exactly stress is adding inches around the waistline.

Let’s start with the basics – what is happening internally when we get stressed? For starters, a steroid-based hormone known as cortisol is released. Cortisol has a few notable functions mainly related to the goal of getting the body primed for fight or flight being:

  1. Increased glucose in the blood
  2. Improves the brains ability to use glucose
  3. Suppresses immune system, digestion, and growth processes

Out of these, the first action listed is going to be the primary culprit in the fat gain associated with stress. In response to higher blood sugar (or blood glucose) our body involves another hormone, insulin to attempt to maintain homeostasis.Side note: you will notice a common trend with every process in the body; they almost always occur in a way that promotes a homeostatic environment. Insulin is important to recognize here as it is what promotes storage of glucose as either glycogen (in the muscle) or fat. With that said, high levels of chronic stress lead to higher levels of insulin being present and then BOOM… you gain fat.

So what can we do about this?

  1. Control Your Stress: Whether it is by talking out your frustrations/emotions, meditation, or other means, find a way to gain better control over stressful situations. When stress is not addressed and is allowed to fester, we run into longer term health issues that become harder and harder to correct, especially if stress levels continue to rise.
  2. Be Active: Exercise is perhaps the best prescription for stress. Consistent exercise will produce “feel good” hormones known as endorphins that are capable of relieving general tension. Make it a goal to hit the gym at least 3 to 4 times per week for 30 to 45 minutes per session.
  3. Pay Attention in the Kitchen: Cut back on stress inducing foods (i.e. high sugar content) and be conscious of your water intake. During times of high stress we tend to forget to sometimes eat or drink like we would on a normal day and providing your body with the nutrition and hydration it needs will provide you the greatest chance at returning to homeostasis.

Ready to take your fitness game to the next level? If you live in Allen, Dallas, or Plano, make sure to get your free day pass to join Hidden Gym! Become a part of the most motivating place in the DFW area that will help you live a healthier life!

Check out our upcoming events and stay tuned for the next experiences that will challenge you to learn and grow!

Debunking Cholesterol Myths with Greg McCoy

According to the research we have so far, approximately 38% of American adults have high cholesterol. While this is a concerning number and people should definitely take care of their health, old research studies should be taken with a grain of salt.

Cholesterol is vital for the production of new tissue and it assists in producing bile in the liver, which is a fluid that helps you break down your food.

During a discussion on TheGuestList, Gym Owner, fitness nutritionist and personal trainer Greg McCoy debunked some of the cholesterol myths out there and provided valuable tips for a better diet.

Here are the 3 most common cholesterol myths:

1 – You shouldn’t consume more than 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day (a single egg has 212 milligrams).

In 2015, the FDA removed the daily limit of cholesterol saying that there’s no upper limit on dietary cholesterol because there is no link between dietary cholesterol and cholesterol in the blood.

There are two types of cholesterol – high-density HDL cholesterol which we’ve nicknamed “good” cholesterol, and low-density LDL cholesterol, also known as “bad” cholesterol.

The American Heart Association says the HDL helps lower the LDL (bad stuff) naturally.

When LDL starts to get too high in the blood you start to develop plaque on the insides and get hardening of arteries. That’s what leads to heart disease and heart attacks, which is why it’s important to get regular cholesterol tests.

High cholesterol foods are bad for us.

High cholesterol foods are not bad for our health but we need to watch out for the type of fat we consume on a daily basis.

Foods that are high in healthy unsaturated fats help increase HDL cholesterol levels. Examples of such foods include avocado, nuts, and grass-fed eggs.

Foods like butter or fatty cuts of meat contain saturated fats and they should be consumed in moderation. Make sure to pair these high-fatty foods with high-fiber foods like veggies, beans, or legumes, because fiber contributes to reducing LDL cholesterol.

Fit people don’t need to worry about cholesterol.

Externally healthy looking and internally healthy don’t go hand in hand all of the time. Genetic predisposition and lifestyle factors such as smoking and stress can boost our bad cholesterol.

Remember that there are no symptoms of high cholesterol and you’re never going to feel having issues with it. The only way to know is to get regular bloodwork done and have those cholesterol levels checked.

The American Heart Association recommends that adults over the age of 20 get their cholesterol checked at least every four years. Keeping our cholesterol info in check should be at the top of the list.

Don’t wait until you find out that there is a health issue to start working out and eating better. If you are from Allen, Dallas, or Plano, come for a workout at Hidden Gym and start working towards a healthier you with professional coaches and nutritionists. Get your free day pass here and come check us out!

Do you read nutrition labels?

Physical activity is an essential part of staying healthy and being in shape. Thanks to sports and movement, we can see what our body is capable of and shape it the way we want.

However, no matter what type of workouts you decide to do, the only way to get the maximum of your efforts is to pay attention to your diet as well.

Movement and healthy eating go hand in hand and consistency with both can guarantee amazing results.

Reading the nutrition labels of the food we choose is important for anyone looking to maintain a healthy and balanced diet. Greg McCoy, who is a personal trainer with more than 10 years of experience and the owner of Hidden Gym, talks more about this topic on Sirius XM Channel 146 Road Dog Trucking.

Here are the Top 6 tips that Greg recommends to follow when shopping for groceries. 

1 – Don’t pay too much attention to the front of the label. 

The front label is where all the marketing is. This is what sells the product, so you shouldn’t be too concerned about it.

2 – The two places you want to look at are the nutrition facts and the ingredients list. 

The nutrition facts are one of the most important things about the food you buy because it gives you information about the macronutrients you are going to fill your body with.

3 – Keep in mind that the ingredients are listed in the order that they’re used the most. 

Whatever is listed first, that’s what is most in the product. For example, if you pick up a barbecue sauce, ingredient number one would probably be brown sugar. Ask yourself if you want to pour 40 grams of brown sugar on your healthy chicken dish next time you’re buying these kinds of sauces.

4 – Check the sugar content on the drinks you take. 

Many people don’t even realize that they consume a lot of calories from sugary drinks. If you can’t stay away from soft drinks, choose the diet options. The diet options usually come with some of those ingredients that you don’t recognize. However, diabetes and heart health are what’s killing Americans, not Splenda. It’s much better to “risk it” with Splenda and have a zero-calorie drink and lose weight than consume that much sugar on a daily basis.

5 – Know how many calories you should be eating. 

If your goal is to lose weight, knowing the calorie range you should stay in is essential. You can’t make progress if you don’t know how much to eat. The general rule for determining your calories for the day when trying to lose weight is to simply multiply your weight by 10 to 12. Don’t go under 10 because this would leave you with too little food, and if you have a fast metabolism you can multiply your weight by up to 14.

6 – Be aware of “fat-free” labels. 

In order for a product to be labeled as fat-free, there should be less than a half gram of fat per serving. However, check out what the serving size is according to that label. What happens often is that they make the serving size so small that it’s not feasible to eat that little amount, and thus, you end up eating a lot more fat than you think.

Do you want to listen to the full interview with Greg and learn more about proper nutrition and food labels? You can do that on Youtube.

Are you from Dallas, Allen, or Plano? Do you want to work out in a highly motivating place with experienced professionals like Greg? You can visit us for a workout at one of the Hidden Gym locations! Get your free day pass here and start working on your better version!

Full Article:

A Guide To Flexible Dieting

Written by: Chris Prosser

This past weekend, I finished up a prep for a client that left most people really confused. The reason? This particular client took an approach that is pretty much forbidden in the sport of bodybuilding – flexible dieting.. How could someone not follow a set meal plan and still drop 40+ pounds of fat?!

Most think to get in great shape (yes, even stage shape) you must follow a rigid, structured meal plan or you simply won’t see the results you want. While for some this may be true, this is not due to physiology but how they operate as an individual (their habits).

Fortunately, habits can change, which is why I am writing this article. There is a (very short) time and place for structured meal plans, but in the long-haul flexible dieting is by far the best route to go. In this article I want to talk about some of the most common questions I hear, and hopefully shed some insight on this great tool!

First, how does it work..?

I like to think of nutrition components as being in a hierarchy, they aren’t all created equal nor do they contribute equally to your progress. I would like to note that the list below (and the corresponding percentages) were originally published by the folks over at Renaissance Periodization.

The components (in order from most impactful to least) are…

  1. Calorie Balance (50%): How much food you are eating vs. how much you are burning
  2. Macronutrients (30%): The ratios of the 3 macronutrients in your total calorie intake
  3. Meal Timing (10%): Typically in reference to intake around pre-, intra-, and post-workout
  4. Meal Composition (5%): The types of food you eat
  5. Supplements & Hydration (5%): The various supplements you can add into your diet to compliment it + your levels of hydration throughout the day

One of the key reasons flexible dieting works, is because it is fairly easy to address the two largest contributing factors of your success.. how much you are eating and the ratios of macros at any given meal. Just by addressing those two areas, you can expect to see about 80% of your desired result – not bad! The remaining 3 components can be addressed either by hiring a coach to help educate you or by committing a lot of time to studying and understanding these concepts.

Why is flexible dieting more sustainable than structure meal plans?

When researchers compare these two approaches, results generally are identical (assuming the above components are accounted for and equal). So where does flexible dieting gain the advantage? Your mind. That’s right, flexible dieting is healthier for your mind and how you approach your nutrition, making it an obvious choice for a lifetime of healthy living.

It is well-known that individuals following a structured meal plan for prolonged periods of time (6+ months) are at higher risk for developing unhealthy eating behaviors and eating disorders. The exact opposite is true of those following a flexible approach to their nutrition. Flexible dieting is so sustainable because of how it allows you to manage your nutrition and change it based on circumstances. There is hardly any wiggle room on a structured meal plan.

As long as I hit my calorie goals, I can eat whatever… right?

Yes & No. If you are looking purely for aesthetic progress you can certainly see results by only focusing on calorie intake and activity. However, I highly advise against this approach as you will end up paying the price later in life. To see both external and internal progress (i.e. looking good AND feeling good) it is important to primarily stick with whole foods / single ingredient foods.

A good rule for this is 80/20.. 80% of the foods you consume should be the types of foods we all know we should eat and the remaining 20% can be your guilty pleasure foods. This is another factor that makes flexible dieting so sustainable, you don’t have to eliminate anything!

This all seems sort of overwhelming, how can I get started?

A transition to real flexible dieting can be intimidating for some, simply because of prior failures or bad habits they know will get in their way when trying to stick to a plan with seemingly no safety net. Everyone’s journey will look different based on prior nutrition history and current habits so my best advice here is to save yourself from the headache and hire a coach that can mentor you through this transition and provide plenty of guidance (tips and grocery lists) to help you get started.


5 Clean Eating Spots Near Hidden Gym

You just finished a workout at your favorite gym, and you want to eat something that meets your macronutrients demand but is also delicious and filling. Here is a list of 5 clean eating spots near Hidden Gym.

1 – Tokyo Joe’s

At this place you can have healthy food inspired by the Japanese kitchen. You can choose from the menu card’s options or build your own healthy bowl with a source of protein, base, veggies, toppings and sauces of your choice. The best part is that there are healthy children’s meals as well, so you can pick up something for your kids on the way home!

2 – Uni Sushi

If you are a fan of sushi, you should definitely check out this place! There is a wide variety of options, perfect for lunch or dinner. You can choose from different house rolls, fresh rolls, sushi, towers, tempura rolls, and baked rolls. Furthermore, there are also soups, salads, rice, noodles, and chef’s table specialties, so you’d better have some free time to choose your favorites.

3 – Freshii

Breakfast, lunch, snack, or dinner, Freshii has you covered. Their menu provides tons of options, so you will never get bored from healthy food. You can choose from different burritos, salads, bowls, soups, wraps, snacks and puddings. There is also a kids’ menu, which makes it easier if you want to get food for the whole family from one place! You can also download their app, place orders in 3 simple steps, and pick up your food within minutes.

4 – Whole Foods Market

This is the place where you can shop organic products and healthy food. There are dozens of healthy, nutritious and protein rich options to choose from, so you can stack your kitchen with the right stuff. You can also have pre-packed tasty salads or create your own salad box there!

5 – Urban Nutrition

Sometimes we need something more than a filling meal and we start craving desserts that often do not fit in our diet. Urban Nutrition Lounge is here to help you stick to your plan and offer you healthy shakes and energy teas. At this place you can choose from pre and post workout shakes, wow shakes, and healthy teas that boost your energy and immune system. They are all made with Herbalife products, taste amazing and the shakes are packed with protein and important micronutrients, while being very low in calories!

We hope that after you visit these places you will be convinced that healthy food can be delicious, and it is not difficult or time consuming to get it. We can’t wait to meet you at Hidden Gym and be a part of your fitness journey!


Clean Eating Recipe: Baked Enchilada Spaghetti Squash

Hi there, Alyssa here! It’s that time of the month for a recipe from Clean Eating with Lyss! I believe that clean eating should be fun, inventive, and yummy! I always strive to come up with recipes that are easy to whip up even for the most beginner cook, use smarter ingredients, and never lack great taste. I will always include the macro breakdown of each recipe so that you can easily track, adjust, and add these meals into your own dietary totals while striving to meet your nutrition goals!

For those that don’t know me, I’m a full time teacher, wife, and an all the time doodle mom! The first thing my husband, Chris, would tell you is that I am obsessed with our two Aussiedoodles, Sully and Olsen. They are our world! If we’re not hitting the trails with our pups, you can find us in the gym or with our families. We are a diehard Texas A&M family and Aggie football fanatics! We joined Hidden Gym almost two years ago and will be forever grateful for the impact Tawna and Greg have had in our lives! We’ve never been a part of a gym that so clearly strives for perfection in all they do and helps to make everyone feel like family.

Baked Enchilada Spaghetti Squash

Makes 4 servings

350 Calories – 12f – 33C – 28P – per each serving

  • 2 medium sized spaghetti squash
  • 8 oz. cooked and shredded chicken (12 oz raw)
  • 4 lite laughing cow cheese wedges
  • ½ cup black beans
  • 1 cup red or green enchilada sauce
  • ½ cup low fat shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 120 grams of wholly guacamole

Side per serving:

75g of sliced apples or pears


    1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Cut each spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and carve out the seeds. Season the inside with salt and pepper. Place face down on a baking sheet. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until tender. Then let it cool.
    2. Boil chicken for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through. Shred chicken.
    3. Combine the chicken with green chilies, cheese, black beans, and enchilada sauce.
    4. Once spaghetti squash is cooked through. Take a fork and rake the inside to form the “spaghetti”. Place ¼ of the chicken mixtures in each of the four halves of the squash. Top with 2 tbsp of leftover enchilada sauce and 2 tbsp of mozzarella cheese.
    5. Place back into the oven for 5-10 minutes or until cheese is melted on top. Top with 30 grams of Wholly Guacamole, salt, and pepper. Plate with fruit on the side.