Monday, August 25, 2014

Quick Monday Q&A

Today, I'll be taking some time to answer some of the emails I got over the weekend in a Q&A session...

1:  I'm stuck!  I eat right all the time and my weight doesn't change?

Response:  Are you accounting for every calorie you are taking in?  What about your macronutrient loads?  Are you weighing every food?  Studies have shown that most people (for whatever reason) are unreliable when self-reporting their diet and activity logs, tending to under-report the "bad foods" and over-report foods they see as beneficial.  Weight management comes down to finding a balance and eating the correct foods to support your system.

2: What exercises can I do to get a flat tummy?

Response:  First, check your diet.  Second, there is no way to spot reduce fat.  Just ramp up your exercise program and hone your diet and your tummy will start to go away.  Exercise patience.

3: What supplements do I need to be taking?

Response: None until you get your diet right and start training properly.  Most people waste their money on supplements that they don't even utilize.  Supplements are meant to just back up an already well-balanced diet and training regiment.

4: When Dieting, are there any foods that aggravate your skin and cause breakouts?

Response: Milk and High-Glycemic diets have been hypothesized to cause irritation; however, the reason for skin irritation and breakouts are Hormonal.  For more information on the subject see here (

5: I have been exercising a lot but still can't lose weight!!!

Response: You cannot out train a bad diet.  Running on the treadmill for an hour is barely worth most people's snacks.  Get your diet fixed.

~Your Trainer
    Richard Sterling Tarleton

Friday, August 22, 2014

End of the week: The 5 day meal prep follow-up

...and so the week draws to a close.  Delicious food has been devoured and there has been no deviation from the diet.  Lessons have been learned with this experiment and here they are.

1: Food can look and taste good for a whole week after prep.  

2: Bacon; however, tastes awesome up until day 4...  then day 5 hits.  

    "Mmmm, Bacon!" I exclaimed as I chewed on the first piece on day five.  The texture wasn't right though, it had taken on a grainy texture that scraped against the back of my tongue.  I choked it down and resolved myself that it may have just been that one piece and took another into my gullet.  I chewed contemplatively for a moment, pondering if I had made a mistake.  Three more bites of the bacon-like substance and I decided that "Yep... five days is too long for bacon."

3: Cravings can be avoided

If you plan accordingly you can make it through a week without real cravings.  I always felt satisfied by my foods this week since they were well balanced.

4: I need a bigger fridge...

5: A week is too much

Food can spoil easily or just change flavor.  I usually stick to 3 day preps because of this.  I don't like bad bacon.

Exercise Spotlight: Deadlift

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Exercise Spotlight: Bench Press

Bad Science: There is no magic pill.

When I first wrote this article, I started by naming off the top-10 bad pseudo-scientific health items I have to deal with all the time in my career.  After deciding to reel it back a bit less combative, I got rid of the top-10 and watered it down to make it more digestible... I can sum up this article in a single sentence...

"Being healthy takes putting in the effort, and there is no replacement for hard work."

At some time in the future I may put out my list (depends on how angry I am that day), but here we go...

The Path Of Least Resistance

We all want a magic pill that would cure what ails us.  Wouldn't it be nice to wake up one day and all you have to do to be lean, sexy, and healthy is just take a pill or drink a smoothie?  

Well, there is a word for that... 


Being Healthy just as making money, success in a career, or finishing your education; all things require effort and persistence.  Most people don't want to make time for that though...  especially when their favorite celebrity is promising to help them lose their love-handles and have a sexy 6-pack in the next 4 weeks. 

Snake Oil Salesmen

Open the newest men or women's magazine or turn on the TV to Dr. Oz and you will see plugging the newest "Miracle Cure".  These products always promise fantastic results, curing pretty much everything.  All you have to do is take this new pill or rub on this new cream...  Many times they will be billed as "Homeopathic" or "All-Natural" and "Free from Side-Affects".

Well, guess what...  Snake Oil Salesmen have been around since humans first invented sales.  

First, let's look at what they are selling you.  Looking back over the last few years alone there have been

several diet pills, creams, rubs, etc... that promise a lot but have not lived up to the hype.  The HCG pill form, but was simple a blend of stimulants and fillers (and had nothing to do with the real Human Chorionic Gonadotropin).  One of the big ones now is Garcinia Cambogia which in a single flawed study performed on rats in China showed "significant" results in fat loss.  None of these products were ever studied in clinical trials before being released to the public.    

Take a Dose of Ancient Chinese Secret with a Glass of Homeopathic Water

There is always a salesman that will try to sell you on the idea that they know some secret from the ancients or some alternative to real medicine.  If you walk into any health food store you will find shelves full of herbal remedies, colon flush systems, and vitamin pills.  The supplement business is a 6-billion dollar a year industry and the vast majority of the items out there are pixie-dust, full of wishes and make-believe. 

One of the biggest things people use is the fallacy that because it's "All-Natural" it has to be good for you...  well, your urine is "all-natural" and even was thought to have healing properties for centuries thanks to pseudoscience salesmen.  There are still people today that will wash their mouth out with urine and shy away from mouthwash because of fear campaigns and misinformation.

Unless you do some research, you may not know the difference between "All-Natural" and "Homeopathic".  Homeopathic remedies (which have been around since the 18th century) would have us believe that if you take something that normally would make you sick or kill you and dilute it up to 10,000,000,000 times (that's not even 1 molecule of the original substance per gallon) then it will have healing properties. 

" of the most common concentrations of remedy that homeopaths use, mentioned above: A 30X dilution means that the original substance has been diluted 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times. Assuming that a cubic centimeter of water contains 15 drops, this number is greater than the number of drops of water that would fill a container more than 50 times the size of the Earth."  ~James Randi Explains Homeopathy

James Randi, a professional skeptic and debunker of pseudoscience claims explains Homeopathy best in this video...

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If the video doesn't load go go here:

Another big illogical argument is because it is exotic and foreign, it must have supernatural powers to heal us.  Salesmen will claim that some ancient tribe used a special herb, root, or ground horn and it magically heals everything from cancer to erectile dysfunction.  These big claims go unfounded and when put under the microscope of clinical trials, hardly stand up...  still want some rhino horn over Ibuprofen during your next migraine? 

Now, I will admit, some of our best medications are manufactured from natural sources; however, these are high concentrations of the molecules that actually do work in our cells. They are not dilutions where the base ingredient is not even present anymore.

Feeling Better Is Not Getting Better

Now, if something you are doing now seems to be working for you I'm not telling you to stop it.  Just be sure to do some research on the subject so you know exactly what you are doing to yourself.  

One pseudo-scientific remedy I used to be into was reflexology.  As I did more research though, I realized there are claims out there that it could even cure diseases with it, so I started investigating it's claims.  There was no scientific basis to the claims but hell, a good foot rub makes anyone feel better.

However, if you are plagued by depression, a diabetic relying on insulin, or have a history of disease DO NOT let some health food nut convince you that some single herb, essential oil, or tea leaf -that may have cured a friend of a friend of their's symptoms- is going to cure you.  Go get professional help from qualified experts.

So, What Does Work?

It comes down to only a few things.  Your Nutrition helps build a sound foundation.  Fitness training will help keep you strong, mobile, and conditioned.  Being aware of your hormonal balance, blood serum results, and general health checkups lets you preempt any disease that may sneak up on you.  

If you are wanting a weight loss cure or build muscle...  try getting your diet balanced and a good fitness regiment set up.  If you are having trouble then consult a professional.  A dietitian can examine your food intake and a personal trainer can help you build a routine that will help you burn off the fat and build some lean muscle.  It will take time but can happen if you stick with it.

If you are depressed, go to a professional psychiatrist who can diagnose you and help you get the treatment right for you.  If you just keep trying expensive supplements, acupuncture, and essential oils you will end up broke and depressed (but you will smell good).

If you have a real disease or cancer, go to a reputable treatment center.  You are putting your life in danger by reading some 50 year old "Cure Everything with my Trick" book that was based off of flawed pseudoscience.  Get some real help!

In short, if you want to be healthy get some real professional help.

~Your Trainer
    Richard Sterling Tarleton


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Exercise Spotlight: Back Squat

Diet Blues: Remembering Why You Started.

Day 2 of my "diet".

I felt very well.  Everything still tastes scrumptious.  I felt satisfied by every meal throughout the day.  The High Fat/Protein, Moderate Carb nutrition plan I'm following supplied me with all the energy I could want or need.  Mentally I felt sharp and physically I felt prime.  Then, we had a company meeting in the evening...
Inner Monologue: "I am not above cannibalism...
I will eat every last one of you!" 

     "You could have a little bit," a coworker pressured "you'll burn it off!"

So, I sat there in the midst of hot wing chaos...  drinking my bittersweet amino acids with the peppery scent of the sauces wafting in my brain.  I love hot wings...  can't get enough of them.

That's how it starts; a bite here and there and those calories begin to add up.  This is why people fail to reach their fat loss goals, they give in to peer pressure or their emotional cravings.

As soon as the cravings started to creep into my thoughts, I had to stop them.  I interrupted the process by reminding myself of why I am on this plan.  "I got an image to maintain... I've got to look good in my photo shoots... I've got to be an example to everyone who follows me."   

I kept it together and did not resort to eating chicken wings or my coworkers.  We finished the meeting and a couple hours later I was able to go home and eat my before bed snack of fruit and cottage cheese.  My cravings satisfied by the sweet and sour concoction.

So, the lesson to be learned here is always keep your goals in mind and make them the priority.  When you lose sight of your goals, you will falter and fail.  Remind yourself regularly of why you started and what you are working towards.

Your goals must also have a major emotional attachment to them too, otherwise they will not have the strength to anchor you when things get tough.  For me, it is that I have to hold myself up as an example for my clients and followers.  I cannot let myself fail because they rely on me to be a reference point for them.

For you it will be different.  Why did you start this journey?  Was it to just lose a little weight or put on a little muscle? If so, that isn't good enough!  Why did you really start?

     *Do you have kids?  Wouldn't being healthier make time with them more enjoyable.  You could do more activities with them and live a lot longer to see them grow up. Wouldn't you want them to remember you as a strong and full of vigor, not as weak and feeble.

     *Do you have a significant other?  Wouldn't they want you to be able to spend more time with them enjoying life.  Doesn't everyone want to feel better about how their lover sees them.  Being healthier together brings a significant joy when each person contributes and holds each other up.

     *Do you fight depression?  Fitness programs have been proven to combat depression and anxiety.  Who wouldn't want to feel happier and suffer less?  Your Body and Mind are tied together...  If you get your body healthy, the mind will follow.

     *Does your career ride on your health?  Many of us have jobs that entail physicality.  Training to be stronger and more resilient not only helps you maintain yourself, but prevents injury and also can increase your chance of moving up in your career.  Learning to stick with a fitness regiment takes discipline, and that discipline can be transferred to your work ethic.

There are many reasons people start their program.  Know your reason and live every day for it.

  ~Your Trainer
     Richard Sterling Tarleton    

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What's Stopping You? Meal Preparation

When I meet people in my office for the first time, I ask them one simple question, “what has stopped you from reaching your weight loss goals?”.  Many times the response is “It just costs too much to eat healthy and pay for training”

They just lied to themselves…

It is because of a lack of self-discipline.

What if I told you that for around $50 a week, you could feed yourself (and possibly your spouse or small family) a perfectly healthy set of meals 3 times a day with some snacks, lose weight?  What if I told you it would only take 30 minutes to prepare those meals a few times each week?  Guess what, plenty of people who are busier than you ever will be do it.  Here is how.

Learn to prep meals multiple days at a time!
1: Have a meal plan.  Plan the week ahead and stick to it.  Plan to prepare your meals in advance so you aren't spending 30 minutes every night cooking.  Remember, most of the time you can prepare 2-3 days worth of meals and store them in the same time it takes you to do 1 meal.  Take the time and research diets and educate yourself on what is healthy and unhealthy.  Remember, ignorance is not a valid excuse.

Tupperware is your friend!

2: Buy healthy foods.  Stick with Lean Protein, Veggies, Fruits, Nuts & Seeds.  Depending on your goals, some starches and dairy may be acceptable.  Avoid things with added sugar and high salt.  While eating healthy food from the store is a little more expensive than going and getting a Fast Food Burger every night, the healthy food pays off in the long run. 

There are 4 servings of each side dish in this picture...
all fresh, all healthy, under $5 total.

3:  Have a designated shopping day with a list.  Stick to the list…   If your list has things like “cookies” on it, tear up the list and start again.

4: Learn to cook.  If you fail at cooking, get over it and get on the internet.  There are plenty of “how to” videos on Youtube showing you how to cook food.
Hearty & Healthy Meals like this can be easily prepared for around $3
and be from Kitchen to Table in 30 minutes.

5: Learn to not make excuses.  If you falter on your diet or training regiment, it is your fault... not your boss's, not your kids, not your spouse, not the junk food manufacturer...  it is all on you.  Take some responsibility for yourself.

In the end it comes down to one thing...  don't waste time thinking about why something cannot be done.  Take control, and do what needs to be done!

Spotlight Exercise: the Superman Back Extension

Monday, August 18, 2014

Spotlight Exercise: The Push Up

For A Larger View, Click Picture

An adventure in Meal Prep: Part 1

"Do you eat a well-balanced diet?"

That's one of the first things I ask my clients when they start up.  Then after a quick review I usually come to find out that they have bad macro-nutrient ratios and poor dietary habits hindering their progress.  That's when I schedule them with a dietitian so they can stop handicapping themselves.

Setting yourself up for success is simple...  
When you want to succeed, do what the pros do.

"But I do not have the time to cook or the money to eat healthy, don't know what to eat, and don't know how to cook..."  

Create a weekly meal plan!
First, stop making excuses.  I've heard them all before and unless you are homeless you are lying to yourself. It is all about setting priorities and sticking to a plan.  

Second, No... I don't expect you to go out and hire a dietitian to plan everything for you, a chef to cook for you, and a trainer to burn all those calories out of you.  Yes, while all of those would be awesome they do cost money.  

Most people overspend as is.  They buy cruddy food at fast food restaurants thinking it's saving them time and money; however, at $5-$10 a pop multiple times a week and the time and gas to get the restaurants they end up spending just as much time and money (if not more) than they would have otherwise.

This week I went to Walmart for my groceries.  I bought nearly everything I needed for the week (excluding some spices and milk) and got it for just under $70.  I even splurged a little bit on some fancy cheese for one of my dishes... 

Now that is important because I usually eat around 3,500 calories each day to maintain and this shopping list reflects that.  Most of the people I train only need to eat around 1,600 - 2,500 calories a day for weight control (with the exception of the ones doing bodybuilding or endurance sports).  So, if I can go to Walmart and walk away with good whole foods for an entire week, if you shop smart (coupons, sales, buy-in-bulk...) you can easily come in cheaper.

The plan was simple.  I get a good breakfast (Eggs, Bacon, Cottage Cheese, and Fruit) followed by a Snack (usually a shake or more fruit with cottage cheese depending on my schedule).  Then I get a hearty lunch and dinner in the afternoon, with a snack to break them up.  While I don't really focus on exact numbers with my calories, most of my meals once I weighed them out came to 800 to 1,000 calories and snacks between 250 and 500.  

One of the most important things to note is that every meal I prepare has a good balance of Protien, Carbs, and Fats.  This keeps me fueled and satisfied through the day and enables me to handle long shifts on the gym floor and and multiple workouts each day.  

If you want a good sample meal plan or just want some healthy meal ideas, go here to Crossfit's Zone Diet primer

So...  What can you do to succeed?  Plan ahead.

Start by writing out a menu for your week and get together a shopping list.  Here is a free one just for that purpose.  Try to keep your meals simple and easy to make.  Also, plan on how you will store them and how well they can keep in the fridge.


5-days of Lunch & Dinner

I usually prep my meals 3 days at a time just so I know that the food wont spoil, but to prove a point I prepped an entire 5 days of food this time for this post.  Each MEAL is a main dish (Protein!), a side, with some Spinach and fruit to finish it off.  I kept my portions balanced by utilizing a Food Scale (Which are cheap and essential for portion control).

A valuable tool for your success.

Once you have your shopping list, food scale, and food containers set out and ready to go its time to do the heavy lifting...  SHOPPING!

The trip to the store was made easier by having and sticking to my list.  

I did have to fight off the usual cravings, but for the most part I was able to keep under control and not just get a bag of chips or some ice cream.

...and yes, that is processed food in my cart. I shopped where everyone else does so I am on even ground.  Normally I would get my meat from a local butcher and stay away from the pre-grated cheeses but food is food.  My only concern here is the sodium content in my food.  



Get your work space clean and ready ahead of time.  This will save a lot of time together.    

Also, try to plan the route you are taking with the dishes.  Do you need to preheat the oven? Are the dishes needing different cook temperatures?  Do you need multiple timers?
Do you need ice to cool certain foods?  Do you need to have certain meats marinading or have a dry rub?   Write down a quick and dirty plan of action so you don't get confused in the mess of things and end up overcooking or undercooking foods. 

So I decided to make 5 different main dishes I figured would hold up for a week in the fridge and reheating.  

1: Meatloaf
2: Tuna Cakes
3: Pork Tenderloin (Peppercorn & Garlic)
4: Pork Tenderloin (Garlic & Herb)
5: More Meatloaf (I like meatloaf)

The Side dishes were easy...

1: Mashed Sweet Potatoes
2: Mashed Potatoes
3: Herb& Butter Rice
4: Mac & Cheese (My favorite!)
5: Spiced Carrots

I also add spinach liberally to all my meals throughout the week... so there are my greens.  

As far as fruit goes, I personally like to nibble throughout the day on it.  So I Sliced and diced a pound of fruit for each day.  That most likely is far more than anyone else would need, but its yummy!

It's can be intimidating prepping a week ahead!

Once the food is cut up and ready to cook, that is when the race starts.  From Start to Finish I was in my kitchen for just shy of 4 hours for prep, cooking, and packaging.

Now, I know what you are gonna say...  "But, I don't have time to cook.."

Yes, you do... Do you watch TV?  Do you play on the internet?  Do you play with your kids? Guess what, You have time.

Move the TV to the kitchen while you teach your kids how to cook, make it fun...  trust me, it is worth it.  There's your solution... now, no more excuses.

Be sure to stick to your recipes and don't try to experiment here.  You don't want to waste any time having to go back and make more food.  Get that stuff cooked and in their packages.  

Once you have the stuff packaged, all that's left to do is stick to your plan. 

Do not deviate. Do not give in when your friends ask you to go get pizza or your kids want you to eat ice cream with them.  

If that is too much of a problem, then maybe then you should consult with a Personal Trainer and/or a Licensed Dietitian   They could help you keep on track and have accountability. 

~Your Trainer
    Richard Sterling Tarleton

Where to get started.

It always amazes me when people start off in the gym.  Most people go walk on a treadmill and play with some little dumbbells or sit around on the machines seemingly just hoping for the fat to melt off.  Some people actually make it to a cardio or yoga class during the week, but ignore their diet or weight training all together.  Even when approached, many of these people are resistance to hear the truth...  they are working without a plan, and will falter and quit the gym within the first six months of joining.  

When starting out, it is hard to be sure you have a well-constructed fitness regiment.  This is essential because you are only as strong as your weakest link.  Many are hindered by these weaknesses in their regiment.  

Here is a breakdown of Five Fundamentals of Fitness.  Every well-constructed fitness plan should incorporate a balance between the following...

The Fundamentals of Fitness

Muscular Strength & Stamina-Developed through resistance-training.  Important for muscular, bone, and joint health.  Helps with the aging process and increases metabolism

Cardio-respiratory Endurance-Developed through moderate and high intensity activities like running, biking, and swimming.  Important for organ and hormonal health. 

Mobility and Flexibility-Developed through stretching, mobilization exercises, and Range of Motion Activities.  Important for joint health and integrity.  Helps reduce injury occurrence and pain.

Nutrition & Supplementation-Developed through healthy eating habits and regular analysis of one’s diet.  The food you eat is the fuel for your activities and importance for maintaining a healthy body. 

Rest & Recovery-Developed through developing healthy sleep patterns, taking part in relaxing activities to “decompress”, and utilizing necessary treatments to prevent and help heal injuries.


How many times have you seen the big muscly guy who just lifts weights but never does cardio?  How about the gal in the yoga pants who hits the treadmill hard but never would be caught around a dumbbell.  There are hundreds of thousands of people just "going through the motions" at the gym training just one or two aspects of fitness.  

Okay, now I'm going to ask you five questions and I want you to answer them honestly.

1: Do you regularly train with free weights (2-3 times a week) using compound movements (Squats, Presses, Rows, etc...)  a resistance that is appropriate for your goals?  

2: Do you at least get 30 minutes of vigorous activity regularly (5-7 days a week)?  Vigorous activity is defined as having your heart rate between 60% and 85% of your Max Heart Rate (Max HR=220-age).

3: Do you perform a stretching routine daily?

4: Do you have a regimented diet consisting of Lean Proteins, Vegetables, Fruits, Nuts & Seeds, Limited Starches, and Very Few Added Sugars?

5: Do you get enough sleep and utilize methods for recovery such as massage, contrast baths, chiropractic, etc...?

So, how did you do? Did you see any areas where you are lacking?  It probably looks like unless you are lying to yourself you have seen something you can improve upon.  Now that you have identified it, how are you going to strengthen that area?  Are you going to try a new mode of exercise? How about getting some extra rest or working on those eating habits?  A good personal trainer would be able to help you identify your needs and help get you the results you deserve.  

~Your Trainer
   Richard Sterling Tarleton  

Welcome to Sterling Fitness Academy

Welcome to the Sterling Fitness Academy Blog.  We are dedicated to helping our audience achieve the best state of health and fitness they are capable of.  

This is the launch of our new Health & Fitness blog. We aim to have a weekly article to be released on Mondays that will include training techniques, healthy recipes, and exercise guides.  We also will be bringing supplemental posts from our guest writers and coaches discussing their own workout programs, nutritional journeys, and adventures outside the gym.

You will also be able to access additional resources on our website, and can contact me directly if you are interested in a specific topic at .  

  ~Your Trainer; 
       Richard Tarleton