Peak Performance Program Design/Nutrition Knowledge Bombs

A couple of weeks back, I had the pleasure of giving up my days off to wake up at 6am so I could attend a seminar that started before 9am both days.  You may think saying this was a “pleasure” sounds facetious.  Gentle reader… sometimes I feel like you don’t even know me.

Truly, I LOVE a full day of education.  And this was two!  Furthermore, since I often have to travel out of town for seminars, I was psyched to attend one here in my beloved New York City, Land of Dreams.

The seminar itself was held at a byooootiful space in the Flat Iron District: Peak Performance NYC, a gym cited by Men’s Health as one of America’s best.  The program design part of the seminar was handled by Peak’s owner and founder Joe Dowdell.  The nutrition part was handled by Dr. Mike Roussell.  Take it from me, these are two smart dudes.

For a geek like me, at this point in my education, I rarely come across stuff that’s totally brand new.  However, the value of being reminded of concepts or appreciating them in a different context can’t be overstated.  When you read and study as much as I do, sometimes you literally just forget things.  Furthermore, the more one learns, the deeper one’s understanding, so many concepts of health and hotness glory benefit from repeated analysis.  I came away with several great ideas to apply immediately in both my training and my nutrition coaching and can say unequivocally that it was a weekend well spent.

I wanna be like this guy.

Although there was plenty of mega geeky stuff (anaerobic lactate capacity training in the hiz-ouse!!), there was plenty of info worth sharing with my beloved general population (those of you without special needs and not in the fitness industry… most of y’all!).  Allow me to try to keep it as simple as possible but not any simpler.

1)  You can only train as hard as your recovery allows.  I know I’ve harped on this before, but if your seeking health and hotness, training hard is key. But you’ll be limited by recovery unless you’re really crossing your i’s and dotting your t’s and spanking your monkey outside of the gym.  You already know the drill: get your sleep, drink your water, get massages, use foam rolls and lacrosse balls, spank your… oh wait.

2)  One of the best ways to train for fat loss is reducing rest periods.  I use this in Snatched, but I can do more of it with my one-on-one clients. Again, I’ve known this strategy for a long time (Charles Staley’s version is called Escalating Density Training), but it was good be reminded of its efficacy.  Instead of just adding weights or reps, those of you seeking fat loss would do well to experiment with systematically reducing your rest periods.

3) If you’ve got a goal, you’ve got to have a plan.  An important take away from Joe’s speech was the value of actually having a plan when you write a program.  Now this is something I’m hyper-aware of in my own designs, and I’m sure it wasn’t news to the trainers in attendance, but I know folks who work out on their own sometimes get stuck in the rut of doing the same thing over and over.  If you’re just doing random things in the gym, you’re really short changing yourself!  Ask for help!

4) Your stomach knows it’s full by VOLUME, not by total calories. In other words, you can drink a milkshake with a gazillion calories and still be ready for more food.  It’s hard to eat too many calories when you focus on lower calorie foods like vegetables and lean proteins.  If you’re looking to lean out and you’re starving all the time, you would do well to just eat more veggies.  You would also be served to limit or eliminate any liquid calories.

This is not an appropriate workout nutrition choice.

But damn it looks good.

5) Regardless of your goal, nail your workout nutrition.  I like my folks to focus on the big rocks.  The most important element in any hotness goal is total calories for the day.  However, Dr. Mike made some strong arguments about the importance of nailing your nutritional intake around the workout.  Whether the goal is fat loss or muscle gain, you would be served by making sure your body has the right type of fuel.  When you’re working out with weights, make sure you drink some whey protein.  Start drinking it before your workout, drink it during, and finish it after.  If you want to put on some muscle, get in a lot of carbs.  If you want to burn fat, get in some carbs but don’t go nuts.

And as a quick side note, most folks know I’m not a big fan of crunches.  Joe mentioned that he felt we’d gone too far as an industry and training that motion actually is of value if you do it smartly and in moderation. He also mentioned that Uber Fitness Research Warriors Bret Contreras and Brad Schoenfeld are publishing an article that looks into the relevant research about the dangers of rounding your low back.  Although it’s yet to be released, their conclusion seems to be that the dangers may be overstated.  You can bet I’m eagerly awaiting this article like a child awaits Christmas morning (this is not a joke, I am truly that lame).  Although at this point I’m still not programming crunches and am currently in the Dr. McGill camp, I remain ever open to new points of view and look forward to hearing the thoughts of these truly smart dudes.

All in all, it was a great event and Joe, Dr. Mike, and the Peak staff did a great job.  I liked it so much I signed up to recieve the DVD product they’re making of the event so my trainers can check it out.  Program design is a CRUCIAL part of safe and effective training, and I’ve never seen it addressed in this detail.  A huge thanks to Joe and Dr. Mike; you’ve made me better at helping my clients, and I salute you!


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