4 Signs Your Nutrition Plan Is Working.. Or Not!

The "Fat Pincher 4000"!

The “Fat Pincher 4000”!

Sometimes changes in health and body aren’t so easy to recognize. DNA’s nutrition program was developed with the intention of being a long-term lifestyle modifier, focused on sustainability. For most of us this means being patient and waiting for changes to occur from the inside-out, and sometimes those changes could take longer than we’d like them to.

A huge problem we create for ourselves is that most of us only focus on certain “problem” body parts, such as belly fat, while the parts we neglect to pay attention to, might be ones that make impressive changes but fail to get noticed. But, it’s those stubborn problem areas that are usually the last to change. That’s why it’s important to get measured once monthly, or at least take some pictures for comparison.

If you are on a fat loss plan, the most difficult time that EVERYONE goes through is “The Ugly Stage”. The Ugly Stage is a point during fat-loss, when fat starts to get soft and saggy, resulting in fat that looks unusually flabby. The good news is soft & squishy fat is an indicator that you are in fact, burning fat! Unfortunately because of this temporary saggy fat, many people think they look worse and lose heart, when in reality holding out for just a little longer would have resulted in a “Whoosh”.

Whooshes seem to happen over night;  when after an extended time (sometimes several weeks) of seemingly zero progress, a big drop in fat/weight occurs, as if out of nowhere. The reality is, sometimes cells have already burned the fat off, leaving behind a water filled cell (water is heavy). As long as one remains diligent, eventually the body signals many of these cells to purge this stored water, and the whoosh results in huge drops!

Becoming a scale-junkie is another common problem. Constantly getting on the scale is not a great motivator. Especially for the beginner to a strength and conditioning program. Lean mass consisting of muscle and bone are good and heavy. Realize that if you’re a beginner, your body probably needs to add some of this good “machinery” to get stronger and healthier. The exchanges of fat and muscle result in less movement on the scale. Step away from the scale! Get rid of it!

To know if your current plan is working, answer these 4 questions:

  1. Are You Seeing Increases In Performance?
    • If you’re consistently getting stronger, moving faster, and are generally getting better in your training, those are all signs that you’re eating an adequate amount of nutrients.
    • If you aren’t sure whether you’re seeing progress, then you obviously haven’t been using your log book!
    • If lately your training sessions haven’t been what they used to be, or you feel sluggish and/or unmotivated to train, this could be a sign of nutritional inadequacies. This often happens to those that have trained for more 6 months or more, as their energy expenditure begins to exceed their energy intake, creating a large caloric deficit. As you become capable of doing more, you should also be adjusting your intake to get more fuel too!
  2. Are You Regularly Feeling Good/Better?
    • From the moment you wake up, do you feel like all is good? Do you have energy throughout the entire day, and usually sleeping well?
    • Junk food will make you groggy, gassy, bloated and interrupt sleep.
  3. Are You Looking Good/Better?
    • The answer is a yes if:
      • Your body fat % is getting better (we test this anytime before class, just ask us).
      • You’re receiving compliments from people who haven’t seen you in a while, or even better, getting compliments from people you regularly see!
      • Your clothes are fitting looser.
  4. Is Your Blood Panel Good/Better?
    • Not everyone has regular access to their blood work so the general rule of thumb here is; if your answers were “Yes” to the rest of these questions, then this one could probably be a yes too.

If you answered “No” to more than one of these questions, then you might consider joining the DNA Nutrition Challenge, or at least re-evaluate your nutritional situation.

More than two “No” answers could be a sign of too many stresses, ill-health factors or worse. We’d  recommend you to seek help to remedy these issues. The potential for more serious health problems could result from prolonged stresses, and might be caused by adrenal fatigue. Sarah Cotten, one of our instructors, is an Adrenal Fatigue Expert, and DNA is also partners with Quality Of Life Medical Research Center. Together, we can help you figure it out and/or refer you to the right people.

If you answered “YES” to at least 3 of these questions then you’re doing something right. Keep on keeping on, and you’ll reach those goals as elusive as they sometimes seem.


Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Awesome Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Recipe Type: Side, veg
Cuisine: American
Author: Anne Johnson
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
Brussels sprouts have an unfair bad rap. They’re not the nasty cabbage minis that your grandmother boiled into oblivion when you roast them like this. Recipe also works for broccoli and cauli florets!
  • 1 lb Brussels sprouts
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 T extra-virgin olive oil (garlic-infused makes it extra amazing)
  • 1 t salt, adjusted to taste – skip it if you’re eating really clean
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 t from the jar)
  1. Preheat oven to 400’F
  2. Slice the sprouts in half, or quarters if they’re really big
  3. Mix everything up in a big old bowl
  4. Spread it on a big cookie sheet (covered with foil if you’re feeling lazy about cleanup)
  5. Roast for 20 minutes
  6. Optional decadence, if you have room in your macros: sprinkle with crumbled bacon and/or drizzle with balsamic vinegar
  7. Enjoy!


Applesauce Muffins

I love fall baking – pumpkin, squash, apple, and a lot of cinnamon…yum. Unfortunately, baked goods are calorie dense, even with clean ingredients, so even pseudo-paleo baked goods are special treats, to be enjoyed sparingly. Having said that, I just found a great recipe for cinnamon applesauce muffins. Enjoy with coffee on a lazy Sunday morning!

Applesauce Muffins
Recipe Type: Treats
Cuisine: Fall baking
Author: Anne Johnson
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 12
I love fall baking – pumpkin, squash, apple, and a lot of cinnamon…yum. Unfortunately, baked goods are calorie dense, even with clean ingredients, so even pseudo-paleo baked goods are special treats, to be enjoyed sparingly. Having said that, I just found a great recipe for cinnamon applesauce muffins. Enjoy with coffee on a lazy Sunday morning!
  • 5 eggs (beat those together first)
  • 1 c applesauce (natural, unsweetened, preferably organic – try Trader Joe’s or Sprouts)
  • 1/2 c coconut flour
  • 1/4 c cinnamon
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/c c coconut oil
  • 2T honey (optional – I think they’re great without it)
  1. Preheat oven to 400’F.
  2. Mix everything in a big old bowl.
  3. Spoon into muffin cups greased with coconut oil, or lined with parchment cups (Sprouts has those).
  4. Bake for about 15 minutes at 400′ F. You can also mix them at night and bake in the morning – give them 2 minutes extra in the oven.


Rice Thins

Rice Thins
Recipe Type: Phase 2+3
Author: Dave
  • white rice flour
  • high oleic safflower oil
  • salt
  1. Of course these are processed, but the ingredients are minimal. I use these for some crunch with my food, and they taste pretty darn good!
Serving size: 18 pieces Calories: 130 Fat: 1.5g Saturated fat: 0g Unsaturated fat: 1g Trans fat: 0 Carbohydrates: 26g Sugar: 0g Sodium: 85mg Fiber: 0 Protein: 2g


Fast & Easy Mojito Lime Chicken

Fast & Easy Mojito Lime Chicken
Recipe Type: Main Dish ALL PHASES
Cuisine: Mexican
Author: Tina
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 1-2
This is a fast and simple way to make boneless skinless chicken breast, for [i]training days[/i] or [i]off days[/i] and [u]all phases[/u].
  • [url href=”https://dnapersonaltraining.com/?attachment_id=2533″ rel=”attachment wp-att-2533″][img src=”https://dnapersonaltraining.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/20130910_130424-e1378843814926-230×230.jpg” alt=”” width=”100″ class=”alignleft size-thumbnail wp-image-2533″][/url]
  • “Grill Mates” Mojito Lime Marinade (dry mix) – 1 pack
  • Olive oil – 2 tbsp.
  • Apple Cider or White Vinegar
  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast
  1. Chop your boneless skinless chicken breast into 1-2 inch cubes. Add to bowl or 1 gallon zip lock bag.
  2. Add in the marinade mix.
  3. [i]For training days:[/i] Add to the mix, 1/4 cup of water. 2 tbsp. vinegar. [i]For off days:[/i] Add 1/4 oil, 2 tbsp. water, 2 tbsp. vinegar.
  4. Thoroughly mix.
  5. Cook the chicken in a pan on high heat with lid, mixing every few minutes until fully cooked.
Serving size: 1 lb Calories: 480 Fat: 23 Carbohydrates: 2g Sugar: <1g Protein: 100g
I use the “Grill Mates” marinades of different flavors depending on the side and off day or training days. This also works on the grill, and with other cuts of meat.


Amazing Transformation

drew-sarahDrew 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

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.

Phase 4 Nutrition and intermittent fasting

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

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

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.

Huevos, Cholesterol

We get a lot of questions from clients about different foods: what to eat, how much, when, and is food X on the plan? Some of our recommendations run against USDA guidelines (which are influenced by Big Agriculture, i.e., financially engineered; pardon the political statement but it’s true) as well as everything we have been taught about food since around 1990, and we understand when people are uncomfortable and confused. In this vein, some of you are concerned when we extoll the virtues of the Mighty Egg and encourage consumption of three of the little miracles at a time in a single scrumptious serving. It really okay to eat a lot of whole eggs, especially if you have high cholesterol?

The short answer is that (a) dietary cholesterol is not a bad thing (contrary to “conventional wisdom”) and (b) once you cut sugar, grains, and other pro-inflammatory foods from your diet, both saturated fat and cholesterol are fine to eat – in fact, they are quite healthy when your body is able to use them as intended. Egg yolks have all kinds of great health benefits, and eggs work better as a system – your body can use the nutrients in the whole egg more effectively than in just the white (I think there’s a protein and enzyme involved but for the life of me have not been able to find the reference for that assertion). Therefore, as long as you’re not having toast or orange juice with your omelette / scramble / frittata, it’s fine.

A more thorough answer requires an explanation of the role of cholesterol in the body, and the reasons for the demonization of cholesterol – what can go wrong. Brace yourself – here we go on a scientific excursion…

Cholesterol is a structural component of cell membranes, essential for brain growth, cell creation and repair, and is a precursor for vitamin D and numerous hormones, including cortisol (stress), aldosterone, progesterone, estrogens, and testosterone. In other words, it’s required for human (and animal) life, and plays a key role in regulating metabolism. Some plants and all animals contain cholesterol, but plant cholesterol is poorly absorbed. The liver regulates cholesterol levels in the blood by synthesizing cholesterol when levels are low, and converting excess to bile and bile salts (which can be excreted) when levels get high. Cells throughout the body synthesize about 80% of your cholesterol, and the liver makes about 20%. Your body synthesizes about 1g of cholesterol each day, and most Americans eat 200-300mg (more if you eat a lot of meat). Since the liver balances total cholesterol from all sources, synthesized or dietary, people who eat meat may produce less cholesterol than vegetarians, but they have similar total amounts of cholesterol. That’s why cholesterol-rich eggs and meat are not the sole culprit of high cholesterol; the liver can remove excess dietary cholesterol. Turns out that there’s more to the story.

Mr. Lipoprotein

You have heard of LDL (low-density lipoprotein, also erroneously called “bad cholesterol”) and HDL (often called “good cholesterol”). Chylomicrons and VLDL are other lipoproteins, which play roles in energy delivery. The liver turns used VLDL into LDL, which delivers free cholesterol (easily absorbed) to the cells, as well as triglycerides (energy) and cholesteryl esters (not easily absorbed). LDL particles may bind to an LDL receptor on a cell and deliver some cholesterol, or it may go back to the liver. LDL also returns the majority of excess cholesterol from cells to the liver. Meanwhile, the liver and small intestine produce HDL, which picks up some of the excess cholesterol at the cells and carries it back to the liver. To oversimplify, LDL is like UPS (pickup and deliver), and HDL is the charity donation pickup van for unneeded cholesterol.

Wait a minute, you ask; so LDL and HDL aren’t cholesterol? No – they carry cholesterol. Blood panels can count the LDL and HDL particles or the cholesterol content in the particles, called LDL-C or HDL-C. The actual LDL count, or particle number, is called LDL-P.

Atherosclerosis – artery plaque – occurs when LDL particles embed in artery walls, triggering an inflammatory (immune) response, which creates more room for more LDL particles. Research and research interpretations conflict on whether particle size or particle count matters more. One theory suggests that small, dense LDL particles, which tend to occur in insulin resistant people, are the ones that embed in the artery walls. Other evidence shows that number of LDL particles is the most important number, suggesting that the chances of LDL particles embedding in the artery walls simply increases when more particles are present. HDL counts don’t seem to matter, and drugs that increase HDL have been shown to be ineffective, whereas statins that lower LDL-P can reduce heart disease risk. It’s a lot cheaper and healthier to lower LDL-P with good nutrition.

Here’s where the toast comes in. Regular consumption of simple sugars such as those found in desserts, breads, pasta, corn products, and fruit juices (pina coladas too!) can lead to insulin resistance, which tricks cells into behaving as if they are not getting fed enough and need to store more energy. Your body responds by sending more triglycerides (lipids) to the cells via the bloodstream. Your lipoprotein particles, including LDL, will be loaded up with more lipids, leaving less room in the UPS trucks for free cholesterol. Therefore, your body has to send out more trucks to deliver the same amount of cholesterol. If the trucks are bigger, each one can carry more triglyceride and more cholesterol, but you may still need more trucks. The jury is out on exactly how this works, but the result is a higher chance of getting LDL stuck in your artery walls and an increased risk of heart disease.

One more point: research has shown that saturated fat doesn’t increase heart disease risk when carbohydrate intake is low. That’s why you can eat bacon with your eggs, but we don’t recommend toast or orange juice with them.

Congratulations if you made it through our little foray into blood biochemistry. It’s an emerging area and this post just scratches the surface of a very complex set of processes. From here, you can look at the interaction between the metabolic processes that involve insulin and leptin, as well as the impact of cortisol and the nasty effects of stress and sleep deprivation, but for now let’s just say that all of these processes are interdependent and you can make things significantly better or worse by changing your training, nutrition, sleep, and stress exposure.


This post was drawn from numerous studies and secondary sources based on the scientific literature. Bibliographies can be found in works by Taubes, and good old Wikipedia too. My apologies for being lazy about citing the sources.

If you really want to get into the science of cholesterol, check this blog post series by Dr. Peter Attia: http://eatingacademy.com/nutrition/the-straight-dope-on-cholesterol-part-i

Nutrition: A Word about Philosophical Differences


You may get slightly different recommendations from our trainers about implementing your nutrition plan. We all subscribe to the same science, but emphasize different priorities. Here’s a comparison of two approaches to help explain why we may not all tell you the same thing. You can decide whose approach works best for you, and shop accordingly – you’ll still get great results.

David is a realist when it comes to food. He’s used to feeding a lot of kids, and understands that most people are on the go, need convenience, and aren’t necessarily aces in the kitchen. He simplifies the guidelines as much as possible and prioritizes the core concepts over the details – making sure you get the right foods and that you can make the plan work regardless of your job, family situation, and lifestyle. Bottom line: simple and effective, focusing on a feasible implementation of your nutrition plan. If you have a lot on your plate and aren’t interested in becoming a gourmet chef, Dave’s your man for food advice.

We love meat.

We love meat.

AJ is a foodie and likes to cook! She has sizable collections of spices and cookbooks, scads of kitchen gizmos, and feeds her family real food-based recipes from across the planet. She reads up on food production and pays a lot of attention to food quality, and the effect of different cooking methods (e.g., avoiding the microwave). Unfortunately, mass-produced food available now is very different from the real food of 100 years ago in terms of breeding and genetics, pesticide content, and often macronutrient composition, and AJ makes an effort to pick the most nutritious versions of each food, with the least added junk. She is a huge advocate of label-reading and education. Bottom line: thorough, with a holistic view for maximizing long-term health potential. If you are willing to make more time for food selection and preparation and want to nail the details as well as the main themes, direct your questions to AJ.

AJ is also a huge proponent of vegetables. They’re “free” (unlimited on Phase I) and delicious, and micronutrients matter too in the grand scheme. Organic are the best in terms of nutrient value. Dave is not a big fan; someone down the food chain at veggies and took in micronutrients, so you will get plenty from meat. If you hate broccoli, don’t eat it.

One concept that we all believe: you should enjoy eating, and food should not cause you stress. We want you to enjoy life and not let food get in the way. If it’s your birthday or a friend’s birthday and you want cake, eat it! If you love wine, enjoy a glass once or twice a week (after you finish your first 30 days)! If it’s college reunion time and you want to go back to your favorite bar and pound Schlitz until you can’t walk…well, you may have other issues, but go for it (and feel like death warmed over the next day…) If you are on vacation, have fun – eat what you like, though we guarantee that you will feel better if you can stick to clean eating 80% of the time.

Not a choice.

Not a choice.

P.S. None of us will clear you to eat at McDonald’s (even the chicken salad has a lot of sugar and other junk in it), and Little Debbie is off the list. Despite the caveat above about eating on special occasions, there is never a good reason to eat food that is closer to plastic or paste than its original ingredients. You won’t starve. Just don’t do it – your body will thank you.

Man Made vs. Real Food

At DNA, we advocate real diets made of real food. We have considered offering protein powders and other supplements, but we just don’t support the consumption of lab-made products. Many are toxic offer all kinds of health pitfalls; additives ranging from corn to artificial colors should not be in your body, and over time, they may lead to a range of issues, whether or not the FDA approves. Dyes have even been linked to ADHD in kids.

Vitamins are one controversial area; science explains why they don’t work, studies have shown no benefit, and they are usually delivered with corn starch and other nasty fillers. Vitamin D (needed for calcium absorption) requires sunlight for production. Drinking milk won’t do the job as the concentrations are low, and dairy has its own problems, especially commercial (not organic) milk. Each vitamin plays a role in the amazing system of your body, and real food generally has the best mix of the right chemicals to optimize your body’s function and composition.

Some people like the convenience of protein shakes after a workout. Many commercial varieties are packed with fillers and sugars, including corn starch, so if you decide to go this route, read the labels carefully. Even the “clean” brands have sweeteners. Here are the labels from Progenex (left) and Gold Standard Whey in Vanilla (right):


Both are sweet, triggering an addictive response that makes you want more sweetness. Gold Standard has a few chemicals, but nowhere near as many as Muscle Milk. What’s your best bet after a workout? Chicken and a sweet potato? Probably. (One of our clients used to swear by chocolate ice cream, but that’s another story.)

Fish oil may be one supplement that can actually do some good. Omega-3’s have a whole slew of health benefits, and few people eat enough fish to take full advantage. We assert that there is no single dietary silver bullet, as foods are rarely consumed in isolation and activity matters, but you probably can’t go wrong by taking fish oil tablets. By the way, Atlantic salmon is often genetically modified, unsustainable, and fed pellets that make it dietary garbage – like corn-fed, hormone-injected, stockyard beef, it should be avoided. Alaskan salmon is fine, and you should always choose wild-caught fish. But I digress.

Bottom lines:

  • Eat real food, choose organic sources whenever possible, and consider adding some fish oil.
  • Get sunlight regularly – go without sunblock for half an hour; it’s tough to balance vitamin D production with skin cancer prevention in Southern Arizona, so pay attention and don’t overdo it.
  • Always read the labels! If a product has more than 4 lines of ingredients and any are unpronounceable, it’s not a real food so you probably should not eat it. This rule goes for any supplements too.


Amazing Collie Flower

Amazing Collie Flower
Author: Anne
  • See below
  1. See below
Serving size: 1 whole medium sized head raw Calories: 146 Fat: 1.6 Carbohydrates: 29 Protein: 11

Our Food of the Month is cauliflower, which is a little unlikely given that it has to share March with Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes, but so it goes.

Cauliflower is most fabulous because of its chameleon-like qualities, but let’s start with its nutritional profile. An entire head of cauliflower has about 210 calories, so in the unlikely event that you eat the whole thing, it won’t trash your nutrition for the day and you’ll get trace fat, about 45g of carbs (about half each of fiber and sugar), and 16g of complete protein in the deal. It delivers some vitamin C and traces of other macronutrients, and contains mostly water. Not everyone loves the flavor, but it’s mild and makes a good vehicle for dominant tastes like baba ghanouj (eggplant-based version of hummus, with garlic, tahini / sesame paste, salt, and lemon).

Like most “solid” veggies (others: broccoli, peppers, okra – the ones that aren’t leafy and floppy), cauliflower is awesome when roasted. Chop it up or buy florets, toss with olive oil and some garlic or garlic salt, and roast at 350′ for about 20 minutes to make a delicious side dish. You can notch it up a little like this with pine nuts (pricey!) if you’re feeling gourmet or if your mom is visiting.

Roasted Cauli


Now for the “chameleon” part of the story: cauliflower can stand in for mashed potatoes, rice, and even the flour in pizza crust, all of which come in handy if you are avoiding carbs or not having a training day. Really! In order of increasing complexity, here’s what I mean.

1. Cauli puree: steam cauliflower – chop it up, put it in a pot in or over a little water, and boil the water for about 20 minutes until the cauli gets tender (don’t let the water dry up). Carefully slide the tender cauli into the blender or food processor, and puree. You can add a little almond or coconut milk, oil, butter, garlic, chives or sliced green onions, or anything else you would normally put in mashed potatoes (did I mention garlic?). Cauli puree is great on its own, as a side dish, under grilled meats and fish as itself or with the faux-tato alias (faux-tato?? yep, it’s mine and you can’t have it), or as a topping for meat pies or stew.

Caramelized Diver Scallops, Cauliflower Puree, Capers, Almonds, Golden Raisins. Ommmmmm.

Caramelized Diver Scallops, Cauliflower Puree, Capers, Almonds, Golden Raisins. Ommmmmm.

2. Cauli rice: it’s pretty easy to turn cauli into rice if you have a food processor; it’s harder with a knife, but can be done. I use this blade:

calui blade

After chopping a head of cauli, shoving it through the food processor, and steaming it, I have this:

cauli rice raw

This riced cauli is ready for makeup. Let’s head east…it works great with Cajun food, in place of rice in jambalaya – especially under ample Tabasco sauce. The resulting dish is not as heavy as Mama’s jambalaya or gumbo. Much further east, you can sauté it with an egg and some soy sauce to make faux-ried rice. (Get it? foh-ryed? fried? Okay, I’ll stop.)

Tonight, we made slow cooker soy ginger chicken (thighs, soy sauce, ginger, carrots, and chopped onion in the slow cooker for 6 hours on low), and enjoyed it with stir-fried veggies on top of cauli rice. Bok choy – chopped and stir fried – works well with this too.

Blurry but delicious

Blurry but delicious


cauli rice

Saucy…after the chicken was gone.

 Of course, I hit it with Sriracha chili garlic sauce, but I put that stuff on everything these days.

 3. Cauli pizza crust: you can make wheat-free crusts with just egg, but cauli works a lot better. I’m a fan of both white pizzas and pizzas with loads of sauce. The recipe shown HERE gives you a set of instructions, and you can choose how you top it. Other DNA chefs have shared their cauli pizzas, which you can top with fresh chopped tomato (or sauce, but check for added sugar), grated parmesan and/or mozzarella (dairy splurge!), GARLIC, oregano / basil / Italian seasoning, and whatever else you like – mushrooms, sausage, pepper…BACON. If in doubt, bake at 350′ for 20 minutes. I find that baking the crust on its own first prepares it to take the toppings and crisp up a bit – less soggy.

Cauli Porn

Cauli Porn

Feel free to share your favorite cauliflower recipes here. If you’ve never tried it, you should!


cornbreadBreakfast has always been my favorite meal. As a kid, I loved pancakes, waffles piled with strawberries and whipped cream, cereal, cinnamon toast, sausage, and bacon. Now that I know better, I don’t buy cereal or bread, but I still appreciate sweet treats at breakfast sometimes. I have a go-to pancake recipe and sometimes chop up an apple and saute it in butter and cinnamon before tossing it on top of … well, anything, including just a spoon.

Another breakfast favorite was the sausage and egg casserole that my mom makes on Christmas morning (to go with the sticky buns, that involve freezer rolls and a packet of butterscotch Jello pudding, now off limits – I just don’t like bread anymore and don’t want the headache). Unfortunately, the casserole uses (stale) bread. Fortunately, I have figured out how to clean it up, and the rest of the ingredients are on the good list (except the cheese; use grass-fed cheddar). Note that it has quite a bit of fat so isn’t an “anytime” treat, but if it works with your macros…

Without further ado, here’s my holiday morning sausage and egg casserole recipe, in two steps – making the “bread” and making the casserole. It’s simpler than it looks!



If you like crispy edges, bake this recipe as about 12 mini muffins. I prefer soft edges, so I bake it in a loaf pan and slice it into 1” cubes. Same recipe goes into stuffing and can be just eaten by itself with some butter, or honey (decadent!)


  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick), melted
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees

2. Whisk together the coconut flour, salt, and baking powder.

3. In another bowl, beat the eggs. Whisk in the melted butter.

4. Add the coconut flour mixture to the egg/butter mixture and stir to combine.

5. Divide the batter among 6 greased muffin cups, 12 mini muffin cups, or spread in a loaf pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.



  • ½ lb breakfast sausage, preferably locally sourced from happy pigs (get the good stuff, not the packaged crap with corn starch added)
  • ½ c shredded cheddar cheese (preferably grass fed – Trader Joe’s has acceptable cheddar)
  • 6 eggs
  • ½ cup almond or coconut milk
  • 1 t mustard powder or Dijon mustard
  • 1 t Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 t salt (or to taste)
  • 1 sliced green onion (optional)
  • ½ t pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 recipe “corn” bread (above)


  1. Preheat oven to 350’
  2. Break or slice bread into approximately 1” cubes, and arrange the pieces on the bottom of an 8×8 baking dish
  3. Brown the sausage and let it cool (you can do this while the corn bread is baking); break chunks into small bits
  4. Mix eggs, salt, pepper, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, milk, onion, and half of the cheese
  5. Scatter sausage on top of bread, then pour egg mixture over it and top with the rest of the cheese
  6. Bake at 350’ for 30 mins or until egg puffs up and top is golden brown. Let cool for 10 mins before serving.




Chiles Rellenos de Carne en Salsa de Chipotle:

Chiles Rellenos de Carne en Salsa de Chipotle:
Recipe Type: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Author: Norma Sedano
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 1
  • Roasted Bell Peppers (Chiles Tatemado) 2
  • Ground Sirloin (Carne molida) 90/10 – 1/2 lb
  • Diced Onion (Cebolla) 1 whole
  • Soy Sauce (Salsa China) 3 tbsp.
  • Mushrooms (Champiñones) 4 whole chopped
  • Chipotle Sause (Salasa de Chipotle) to taste
  • Motzarella Cheese (Queso Motzarella) top to taste
  1. Saute ground beef with diced onions, salt, pepper and garlic.
  2. When the beef looks about cooked you add the mushrooms and a little bit of soy sauce.
  3. Stuff your chile with the beef and pour the chipotle sauce over them.
  4. Top with cheese.
  5. ….Enjoy 😉
Serving size: 1 Calories: 340 Fat: 18 Carbohydrates: 5 Sugar: 0 Protein: 43


Post Training Meal – Sushi

Post Training Meal – Sushi
Recipe Type: Phase 2 & 3
Cuisine: All You Can Eat Sushi!!!
Author: David De La Peña
This was my Post Training day meal today. The entire meal was Nigiri style sushi, totaling 41 individual pieces. Obviously I had to choose my pieces wisely!
  • Sticky Rice
  • tuna
  • albacore
  • yellowtail
  • snapper
  • some salmon
  • a couple of smelt egg
  • 2 miso
  1. Now most would think that a meal like this would make you fat, but I eat like this every Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Below is a picture of me chinning a couple of 45’s x 5 reps during today’s training @ 189 lbs, & 8% BF. Science Based Fitness & Nutrition!
Serving size: 42 total pieces Fat: 34g Carbohydrates: 330g Protein: 180