Drew and Sara have been an inspiration to many people. In the time of one semester they have completely transformed their bodies, increased their strength and conditioning to a high degree, and most importantly adjusted their lifestyle towards health for quality living well into the future.
Their training regimen was Advanced Micro Training (A.M.T.), which consists of 3 sessions per week of heavy weight training, with a touch of sprint work among other things. The program was developed to maximize the body’s ability to adapt to low dose stimulus. Every so often a period of testing was thrown in to gauge changes in over all performance.
The couple are proof that 95% of success in training can be attributed to nutrition. Here’s what they had to say about their experience.
Q: You’ve been in DNA’s ADVANCED MICRO TRAINING (A.M.T.) class for about 6 months now, what made you decide to join DNA?
A: There were many factors that caused us to check out DNA. The least interesting being that it was close to where we were living. I had also heard good things about DNA from another member, CJ Doane. In addition to that, Drew had been wanting to get fit for several months prior and thought that the structure that comes along with personal training would help him be accountable and committed.. Finally, we were both stressed out, not happy at work and in need of something to give us balance. DNA was perfect!
Q: For those reading, the AMT program consists of 3 15-minute training sessions per week requiring no other activity! Before beginning this program would you have ever thought that you could see these kind of results in such short training sessions?
A: NO! We do not want to sound too much like an infomercial, but it is absolutely remarkable that one can get these results with such short intense training sessions. Before starting at DNA Sara was running for 2-3 hours/week. Now we still both run less than 1 hour/week +the 45 minutes of DNA training, so the overall amount of time spent working out is less than before but more efficient.
Drew and Sara Before Training
Too be fair, we have also made significant lifestyle changes. Everything Dave says about nutrition is a 100% true and we are eating clean food with a purpose, which has been instrumental in our progress. Fifteen minutes of training leaves 23 hours and 45 minutes to make choices that are going to help those minutes count or circumvent your hard work. Dave taught us how to eat right amplifying the impact of our work in the gym.
Drew and Sara Before Training
Q: Both of you have seen mind boggling results! What are some key factors involved in your success/es in this program?
A: Similar to what we said above, the importance of nutrition cannot be overstated. Also, I think it has really helped that we were doing this together. It is much easier to stay on track as a pair than as an individual. For anyone getting started on a program like this, we would recommend trying to recruit your family or signing up with a friend/partner/roommate. The support, encouragement and camaraderie that comes along with doing this someone else really helped us stay on track.
Q: What kind of training were you involved in before AMT?
A: Drew played sports in high school and lifted off and on until about 2 years ago. Since then and before starting DNA, he jogged a bit and hiked. Sara had never lifted and was a runner before starting at DNA, running between 15-20 miles/week.
Drew and Sara After 6 months
Q: What kind of supplements were/are you taking? It seems impossible that these drastic results can happen with out any “help”!
A: Do sweet potatoes and lean protein count as a supplement? We were not taking any supplements until about 1 month ago. When we started phase III nutrition and the intermittent fasting we started taking BCAAs 20 minutes before we work out, but that is it. Since working out with DNA, we have never used protein shakes or any other sort of health supplement. We actually have both stopped taking multivitamins. Now that we eat better they seem superfluous, if not detrimental. It was just all real, clean food.
Q: Nutrition is a major factor, describe your experience with PHASE 4 NUTRITION.
A: Anytime we would start a new nutrition phase, the first week was challenging. After 1-2 weeks it seems routine. This was even true with phase I. With phase II, Sara could not believe that she was going to have to eat 193 grams of carbs on training days. Quickly, it did not feel like enough food, and now 299 grams is the norm. When Dave introduced the concept of intermittent fasting, we were both all for it. Not just for performance reasons, but mostly because there are extensive data showing that it promotes longevity, lowers cancer risk, and increases insulin receptor sensitivity. Our current nutrition plan has it so we only eat between 12 pm and 8 pm. The first day was really hard for Sara, she did not feel like she could do anything in the gym, and both of us had a hard time getting our macros in before 8 pm. Then we discovered sweet potato smoothies with kefir (it is fermented diary, so not inflammatory) and coconut water. After about 2 weeks, we both stopped feeling hungry before noon. It has only been a challenge when switching time zones, easy to go east but those 3 extra hours hurt coming home. Now it seems really easy to put away a lot of food in one sitting. One of the coolest aspects of experimenting with this phase of nutrition is to see how quickly your body can adapt to be entrained to shorter eating windows. The caloric intake remains the same, but the extra time off your digestive system gets results in a lot less oxidative stress. We are glad that Dave figured this out for us and we plan to keep it up indefinitely.
Q: What weight and body fat did you start at? finish?
A: Drew was 165 and 17.9% body fat. Yesterday, he was 157 and 5% body fat. That is a loss of ~21 pounds of fat and an increase in 13 pounds of lean body weight. Sara was 137 pounds and 28.5% body fat. Yesterday, she was 122 pounds and 12.7% body fat, with a total loss 15.5 pounds of body fat and an increase in 8.5 pounds
of lean body weight. That is just since February 26th!
Q: How long were your workouts?
A: Typically around 15 minutes not including rolling out and warming up. On occasion we would go up to 30 minutes, but that was rare. We were also running 2-3 times a week, but nothing long or serious and this was just for fun. Running is more of a hobby than exercise for us now. The exception to this was the 5 weeks that we were in Anne’s natural running class, which had us doing drills and cadence intervals 2-3 times/week that took around 20 minutes to complete. But this was more about fixing our poor running form than getting fit. Now we can run for fun and know that we are not going to damage ourselves. Quick plug for Anne’s course: proper form also made us a lot faster, which helped us get PRs on that dreaded 400m that comes after Dave’s applied strength “A” program.
Drew and Sara After 6 months
Q: What did you eat or how did your diet change?
A: We did not eat terrible before, but our diets were certainly not optimized. A bit better than the typical American diet. We ate a lot of organic green leafy vegetables and whole grains. We also ate a lot or red meat and little to no fish. Our biggest mistake was how much bread, pasta and pizza we consumed. Sara used to love her pasta. We also drank a lot of beer before. We both love craft beer and in particular high octane IPAs for Sara and dense stouts and porters for Drew. Enjoying a beer used to be almost a nightly indulgence for us. We also used to eat out a lot more, especially for lunch. I think our biggest mistake, other than the beer, was mixing fat and carbs, for example, fried chicken and waffles and mac ‘n cheese were not uncommon. In the most recent phase of nutrition, Drew had to make the transition to drinking black coffee (rather than coffee with cream/milk).
Q: What food did you miss?
A: This is a really interesting and not straight forward question. The first month, Sara missed ice cream and beer and Drew missed snack food and beer. Dave did a clever thing after our first month of training, however. We both had a great weigh in and he gave us a cheat meal allowing us to go all out with beer and whatever else for one meal. Sara ate a lot of ice cream and Drew had snickers. We both drank more than a couple beers and felt really crappy afterwards- a sugar along with alcohol hangover. Since we were so used to feeling great most of the time, this kind of took away our cravings. In neuroscience they call this ‘aversive conditioning’, Dave called it “de-conditioning”. Now there is not much that we miss, mostly because our palates have changed and we have discovered new things that we love. Sara does not miss ice cream because frozen kefir is amazing and on carb days we can eat it on gluten-free sweet potato pancakes. This is perfection! We have also discovered grilled tilapia with a citrus marinade…yum. Drew makes the analogy that it is like moving to another country. You probably will not be able to find good tamales in New Zealand, but the lamb and seafood will more than make up for it. Neither of us miss pasta at all.
That is not to say there aren’t cravings. Deep fried oreos or chocolate covered pretzels still sound good to Drew, but it is a transient craving that can be replaced by something better.
Q: Were you hungry?
During the first month of phase I nutrition, neither of us were ever hungry, although we also never felt totally full. We both think that this is because by cutting out grains and most carbs, we never felt that bloated feeling often associated with being full. We no longer have this association and being full now means that we are on track for getting in our macros. After the first month, it was a little different between the two of us. Sara usually did not feel hungry, except during the first week of starting intermittent fasting. Sara had also done Weight Watchers before (many years ago in grad school), and definitely felt less hungry with this nutrition plan compared to previous diets. Drew has had episodes where he has certainly felt hungry and like he “cannot eat enough”. This is usually before he meets with Dave to adjust his macros again. The point is that we never felt like we were starving ourselves to lose fat.
Q: How long did it take you to notice a change in your body? What change in your body did you notice first?
A: Both of us agree that we started to notice changes in about 3 weeks. For Sara, it was her calves having more definition. We were living in a house with no full length mirror, however. After about 6 weeks, we went to stay at the Tubac Golf Resort for Sara’s birthday, and when Sara saw her abs in the bathroom mirror of our cottage, she was blown away. For Drew it was his stomach definition coming back. His abs became prominent after about 3-4 weeks. Also, after doing Anne’s Natural Running Class we both noticed a new muscle on the top outer portion of our feet develop. This may have also grown from lifting in minimal shows, but it is funny to see something develop that you did not even know was there.
Q: Did you energy level increase?
A: Yes. Both in and out of the gym. We often talk about our second day in the gym in which we did a modified “Helen” (we ran 200m instead of 400m and neither of us were near Rx weights for the swings). It was an atrocious, nauseating, ear-throb inducing tragedy. In terms of conditioning, there was no where else to go but up. Now, we have more of an interest in the “most-fun-you-never-want-to-have-again” workouts like FGB (with a special preference for how DNA conducts it). Getting to prescription level was exciting as well as pushing for a higher score. Sometime early on, one of the trainers said “If you’re tired, you’re most likely not eating enough”. This was also something important to learn, but once we had our diet tuned to our macros (and spaced so we could fit them into one day), the afternoon sleepiness that traditionally followed lunchtime went away.
Q: Did you sleep better?
A: This is complicated to answer and not straight forward. Overall, we go to bed earlier now and have better sleep hygiene. But we are also drinking a lot more water, so we both have to get up to pee 1-2 times a night. Then there are the nights after a really intense, long workout in which we both have had problems sleeping. This has only happened twice. Neither of could sleep after the Memorial Day Hero Workout “Murph”. Sara could also not sleep after doing the “filthy fifty”. We suspect that there is an inverted-U shape curve with regards to physical activity and sleep.
Q: What is in a normal day’s menu?
A: We always start the day with 1-2 cups of black coffee. It does not have any calories, so it does not break the fast. Drew loves his coffee and likes to find fun facts about its benefits. Here is one fun fact: Coffee may ward off cavities!
Off days: Some sort of grilled protein (fish, lean beef, chicken), sauteed scallops or shrimp, riced cauliflower, salad (with yogurt-based salad dressing to cut fat- the brand is called Bolthouse Farms and is sold at Whole foods. Ranch and bleu cheese), nonfat greek yogurt with a little bit of blueberries, kefir and some other non-starchy vegetable. We avoid soy (except soy sauce, which is fermented), milk, corn, corn syrup and all grains. We still eat hamburgers and sandwiches, but with romaine or butter lettuce cups instead of buns. This is now our preference, as the bun takes away from the flavor of the protein and the lettuce adds a nice crunch making the texture better. Also, we have discovered a dark chocolate at Trader Joe’s with limited sugar and no soy lectin. Drew has one small square of this every night and Sara has one on off days only. It is a small indulgence that keeps us from craving other sweet things. Also, dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants and good for your brain.
Training days: We start off at noon with ~20oz of sweet potato smoothie (2-4 sweet potatoes, 1 cup kefir, 1-2cups coconut water, cinnamon and nutmeg to taste)…yum! We cannot get enough of these. Rice with veggies, egg whites and chicken breast, grilled fish or shrimp, and more potatoes or rice. We may also eat a slice or 2 of rice/pecan gluten free bread with cinnamon (we make sure it is a bread without sugar). Cinnamon is an amazing substitute for sweetener. Sara puts it in yogurt, on bread and in smoothies. We also get carbs by eating organic gluten-free rice cereal with kefir. Our favorite is Erehwon. On Fridays, after training, we go for all-you-can eat sushi at Sushi Hama. We avoid the rolls and fill up on nigiri (ordering mainly lean fish, limited salmon, and no Krab). Finally, we still eat salad on these days, but not as much relative to the off days.
Q: Did you drink alcohol?
A: Very sparingly. We were both interviewing for academic jobs during this time, and would travel for this almost once a month. These interviews are 2-3 days and involve some wining and dining so we would typically have 1 drink at dinner, which was expected by search committees. The major change for us regarding our alcohol consumption is that there now has to be an occasion to drink. We both had a few drinks on the 4th of July and at Dave and Tina’s engagement party. Once, Sara had a beer after work for no reason but then went for a run immediately after, which made for a good run Dave put the cost of drinking alcohol in perspective for us after we rowed our first 5K. It took Drew 19:59 and Sara ~22:00 minutes and it seemed hard. We burned around only 200 calories. Dave pointed out that we had just burned one beer. It seems easier to save the beer for something special. We should also note that with the exception of the engagement party, which fell on a Friday, we NEVER drink on training days. When we drink, there is also a big effort to eat lean protein and very little carbs.