Category Archives: Nutrition

The plight of small group personal training in 2014

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Small Group Personal Training (and I) Owe 2014 To You.

No, seriously.  Whether you’re currently a personal training client, boot camp or weight loss challenge participant or have been one in the past, you’re a part of the reason why we’re here today.   Even if you’ve just read some of our stuff, talked about us to someone or done nothing at all but read this far into this post, I mean it.  You’re helping create awareness with every workout, every mention, every activated neuron in that beautiful head of yours.

60 lbs weight loss

Sometimes weight loss results come from smart work, not just hard work.

Let me explain further why you’re to thank for small group personal training:

If you were once with us and left, that forced me to sit down and think deeply about why you did.  About what we could do to make Bonza better so the next person would want to stay forever.  When you stayed, that gave me the chance to show you different ideas, to brainstorm with you and let you them give me the thumbs up or thumbs down.  I’ll say it because you’re too nice to – it hasn’t been all smooth sailing.  We’ve gained some good people but lost a few as well.

It might be an exaggeration to compare running a personal-training focused fitness studio to a battlefield, but let’s put it this way.  Every time I look out at the clubs and studios that are making headlines, it gives me the strength to keep fighting.

Because Bodylab shut down.   They had a great nutrition program (like we do) and got great results (like we do) but couldn’t make it work.

Chi Fitness changed hands.  Became a house divided – where workouts once met yoga, the innovative concept eventually sputtered out.

Orange Theory Fitness grew exponentially but in a different direction than what made them effective in the first place.

All of these studios have or did have the chance to be game changers, but they all shied away from the small group concept  they were borne of and went with something different. The closest thing left to a dedicated small group training experience is Pearl Street Fitness (who do a great job – theirs is a little larger than our class sizes and with a different movement philosophy, but do a great job at what they want to be good at, which I salute).

Running a small group personal training fitness studio is worth every minute of effort.

liz smiling

This is Liz. She’s holding a ViPR. Just one of many functional training tools/devices of torture that took off in 2014

So don’t get me wrong, the battlefield I’m talking about isn’t with other studios.

It’s with the crystal clear view I see and the battle to get other clubs and trainers to save this concept before it gets overlooked altogether.

Which is that people need attention.

They need to be able to go to whatever workout they want to with whatever trainer is there and get a personalized experience.  Are we at a place where I’m happy with it yet?  No.  But I’m hard to please.  And we’re getting there.  We’re closer every month.

Sorry, where are my manners!  Let me get off my soapbox for a moment.

That’s better.  (deep breath)

Happy Holidays to you from Bonza and all of our personal training staff.

Of course, I’m hoping when you read ‘happy holidays’, you’ll insert your religious/seasonal/solstice-based celebration of choice to that, sparing me the awkwardness of getting it wrong and feeling angst about my ignorance when it comes to knowing what to say.  What’s that?  I know, right?  Thanks for understanding.

christmas tree zoomed

Tihis cool zoom out effect helps me understand what LSD must feel like…

So when I look back at the year that was, a lot seems to have happened.  It’s actually kinda dizzying, both for me personally as a personal trainer and fitness professional, and for Bonza Bodies as a club coming into a level of it’s own finally after many transformations and reorganizations.

We won a few awards for personal training, one for boot camp, spoke at a few events and got seen on TV about a million times it feels like.  The funniest thing is that the thing I’m most excited about is the place Bonza is at right now.  We’ve got members that have stuck with us, managers that have been resilient even when I’ve loaded endless projects upon their sh9ulders.  A couple of new faces and new game plans that have me giggling (yes, giggling) about what 2015 will hold for us.

So thanks.  For being a part of a movement to get clubs to pay better attention to you and not accept it when they say “Oh, you want personal attention?  Trainers corner is over there.  Don’t forget to budget the thousand dollars per month you’ll need to afford it!  PS Nutrition is extra”

We’re not where we want to be.  But we’re getting there.  And it’s in big part thanks to you.

Here’s to you – have a happy and safe holiday season, you butthead.

Be true to your goals,

Jamie Atlas

Sarah's new personal trainer Rex seemed adamant she finish her set before moving on.

Sarah’s new personal trainer Rex seemed adamant she finish her set before moving on.

Weight Loss is just a part of our best transformation program ever

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 A weight loss experience you’ll actually be able to stick with.

The holidays are full of eating and drinking — either from stress, for celebration, or because we’re in a hurry and grabbing a donut seems easier than cooking some eggs. But the season of gathering over plates of calories and goblets of sugar is short-lived. And, like clockwork, here comes January and with it all the weight loss programs that promise all of the results with none of the support, nutrition or essential elements of any quality get in shape program.  They don’t really expect you to stick around, they’re just looking for their share of the ‘new years resolutionaries’ to pad their membership stats.  Why bother providing quality to someone who’s not really gonna stick around past the first two weeks anyway, right?

We don’t have a dozen studios to choose from, just one in downtown denver (80202) and our humble lakewood location.  If the weather stays nice we’ll have a few workouts at red rocks just because it’s amazing to do that.  If you live or work near either of those locations (or know someone that does that you can tell about this program) then you need to get involved.  What else are you gonna do?  Rely on willpower to do it yourself?  Say it with me and tell me how it sounds:  “Me getting in really great shape is gonna work this time because I really seriously mean it this time.  No, stop laughing.  I’m being serious right now.  No, this isn’t like the other times, it’s different because I say so.  Stop making that face!”

You say weight loss, we say transformation

In the dwindling days of December, you still have time to turn things around but if you don’t, all is forgiven on January 5th when we launch our best total body transformation yet.

who-is-awesome (1)I’ve been a personal trainer for a long time (what, you think I’m going to date myself by telling you how long? A long time, kids.) and I pride myself on my holistic approach to functional training. But this time, we’ve outdone ourselves. This is a 50-day total body transformation with all the bells and whistles to get the job done. It’s like fitness goals on steroids. Wait– No. It’s a VIP-level fitness experience including workouts, nutrition and support that is in essence a weight loss (or should we say fat loss) experience. Because that’s how transformation happens. Because you’re awesome and you deserve it.

Anyone who’s joined our classes at the studio or at Red Rocks has probably heard our trainers talking about nutrition and food choices. Tips to survive dinner parties, some of our favorite dishes for the holidays, and so on. It’s because we care about your results. We’re not just going to run you through a tough workout and then send you off to the bakery for a reward. Nope, we’re tackling your health like we would our own.

Join us for 50 days, starting January 5, and see what I’m talking about. Get the details below and sign up here.

50 dayys back 2-2




Smashing Assumptions About Breakfast

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As trainers, we talk a lot about fitness, functional workouts, weight loss goals and how awesome it is to work out at Red Rocks. But when I’m doing my personal training thing and working with my clients, I also maintain a large focus on nutrition and healthy eating because I understand that a fit and functional body is fit and functional from the inside out. So let’s talk about food.

We all know the old saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You know, because nutrition is important, because it kickstarts your metabolism, fires up the ol’ brain cells and preps you for a day of productivity. And that’s all well and good, but let’s be honest: there’s more to it than that. Breakfast food lives on a bit of a spectrum that I like to break down into red light, yellow light and green light foods. While it’s easy to identify donuts as America’s favorite breakfast– uh, I mean, as a red light, some foods are a little harder to classify.

I recently visited 9News to talk to Corey Rose about breakfast, and brought with me some controversial favorites: eggs, yogurt and oatmeal. Seemingly all green lights, right? I mean, the commercials will tell you so. But here’s what happened when we put them to the test:



Turns out the yogurt was our red light. Why? Because of those sneaky artificial sweeteners that will actually create inflammation in our bodies. How do we convert that to a yellow light food? Eat real yogurt with no sweeteners and add some berries.

Our green light, despite concerns about cholesterol, was the eggs. And oatmeal was the yellow light. So think about that next time you’re bellying up to the breakfast buffet — it’s only the most important meal of the day if you’re making good choices.

Does Your Body Type Change How You View Exercise?

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Your Body Is Not Your Fitness

Anyone catch this article on body size and workout attitudes a while back in the New York Times? It’s a worthwhile read but to give you the short version, it’s about a recent study suggesting that “our attitudes toward physical activity may be attributed to or more influenced by our body size than has previously been understood.”

Here’s my take on how your brain and exercise work together:

we’ve known for a long time that exercise helps the brain. American Football athletes are sometimes perceived as being ‘dumb jocks’  (not by me, of course), but they have to memorize multiple plays and formations so there has to be some mental capacity there, right? Ask any truly dedicated football athlete (or fan, for that matter) who won that championship what year and they’ll likely be able to tell you who played, what the score was and maybe even a few play highlights.

Exercise Flush For Brain Function

The function of exercise flushes the brain with blood (or fresh nutrients). If we want a brain that works well, then we need a well-rinsed brain. A better working brain gives us better answers and more confidence in using it when it comes to hard questions like math, where you parked the car or what women really mean when they say “would you like to talk about this later over coffee?” (which might actually require shutting off the “other” brain, eh-hem).

brain on exercise

This is your brain on exercise.

So how does this tie back to the research? What’s interesting is that the findings suggest that overweight participants found exercise off-putting, partly because they anticipated disliking physical activity more than sitting sedentary. To contrast, the leaner participants had a positive reaction when presented with images of others working out, and they imagined doing the same themselves.

And even more interesting was that in the overweight participants, “their bodies were unfamiliar with how to be active, which might have contributed, the study’s authors speculate, to the women’s negative emotional response to activity. They didn’t know how to exercise and anticipated not enjoying trying to learn.”  In essence, the brain didn’t want to exercise because they were anticipating a painful experience (the same way I feel before my wife makes me watch ‘The Bachelor’).

And as a fitness professional I’ve seen it many times in different forms.  Just the other day I was in our Denver studio watching a personal training client slowly lose form and at the same time, his enthusiasm seemed to fall. So naturally, I told him one of my best jokes (note I said ‘best’ jokes, not ‘funny’ jokes). We cleaned up his form, got him in the right headspace and he was on his way again. And as this client’s body becomes more active, he’s becoming happier to see me (without so much as a banana in his pocket!). At least that’s what he tells me. I’m sticking to it.

So not only does exercise flush the brain to help us rule trivia night or remember exactly where we left our keys, but the memories of being active actually help us feel compelled to continue to do so and reduces anticipation of not enjoying being active.

The ‘fitness’ moral of the story? The more you move, the less you fear it!

Holiday weight gain? Bah-humbug!

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The holidays are all about celebrating with family and friends, right? And what’s a celebration without food and drinks – and lots of ‘em? The truth is, people are exchanging more calories than hugs this time of year. So it’s up to us to set some parameters for ourselves to make sure we have a good time, without all the guilt.

holiday meal

Can’t. Stop. EATING!

It can be difficult to fight peer pressure and say no with grace, but it’s possible if you walk into the party with a plan. Here are some survival tips to help you stay on track despite the visions of sugarplums dancing in your head:

Trim the tree, trim the fat. Making simple substitutions in your diet – like 3 egg whites instead of 2 eggs – can go a long way. Add turkey bacon and salsa. Yum. Skip the wine and cookies and bring a healthy plate of food or an amazing salad to the party. Then watch how many people are relieved to see fresh veggies amidst the sea of sugar.

Ramp up your reindeer games. Get competitive with your eating (no, not like that). Set some rules – and rewards – for eating well. Maybe it’s flowers, a new outfit, new shoes… Anything that’s not food is fair game. And make the goals challenging, yet attainable. Maybe you skip dessert. Or promise to only eat and drink for 30 minutes, then switch to water for the rest of the evening. Whatever it is, make it tangible, then pat yourself on the back when you nail it.

Start a new tradition. Hit up a hard workout the day of a party. Getting your body moving will help you make good choices the rest of the day. Eat before the party. This is your chance to eat in a space where you have control over what’s on the menu. Going hungry to a party is like running full-speed to pet a kangaroo – you’re going to get knocked down and feel really bad the next day.

Sometimes fighting peer pressure is about preventing the confrontation in the first place. By getting comfortable enough with your healthy habits to stick with them, then adding a little careful pre-party planning, you’ll be able to ring in the New Year without wringing your hands over a plate of cookies.

 Check out this video for more holiday survival tips.

Food Plan 2.0: The Power Of The Refeed

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You’ve been working out hard.  You’ve been focusing on your food harder, every day seeing results.

Then it happens.  A craving.  The need for something from ‘the good ol’ days’, back when you could eat a piece of cake without worrying about things like gluten or dairy.

Back to the days of innocence.

Back to when everything was awesome and you couldn't do wrong

Back to when everything was awesome and you couldn’t do wrong because you were so dang cute

But don’t fret, anxious warrior.  There is a way for you to sample the ‘forbidden fruits’ and actually benefit from your indulgence.

It’s called a ‘refeed meal’ and it’s essentially a body hack, tricking your body into thinking that it need to boost it’s metabolism to respond to the food intake you just consumed.  You see, the problem with most ‘diets’ is that they only work for a while because the body responds to them.  After 6-8 weeks the body tends to slow it’s own metabolism, meaning that you could be eating a lower amount of energy in your daily intake, but your body will eventually respond to lower it’s own metabolism to create a zero energy loss (ie you don’t burn any more fat even though you’re living on crackers and the smell of grapes).

Of course, the bodies survival mechanism combined with the delicious smells of your favorite foods, one part peer pressure and two parts the stress of work topped with a drink or two to loosen up your judgment/self-restraint, make for a binge-fest that is for most, simply a matter of time.

It shouldn’t be called a ‘refeed meal’, really – it should be called a ‘Metabolism Hack’.  But Refeed sounds so much more exciting, don’t you agree?  But of course, I should also explain this….

Why haven’t I been given license to do this yet?  Why couldn’t I start refeeding in week 1?

Calm down now.. no need to make a scene, alright?!

The refeed works only if two baselines have been established.

  1. Your body has been on a slow-carb food plan (like the one we recommend for you) and has adapted its ‘set point’ to be at regular blood sugar levels, not highly fluctuating like your regular american food intake creates.
  2. You have the ability to push your body hard without fear of injury.  That is, you have a few ‘safe’ exercises that you can do that will totally exhaust you in the moment but that you’ll be able to recover from the next day.

Essentially, if you’ve been working hard and have been stuck to the food plan for at least 6 weeks, then here’s your reward.  Think of the meal you’ve been missing.  It’s back in your grasp.  And you can have it and it will actually BENEFIT your weight loss.  It’s crazy I know, and it goes against everything you’ve heard before,, but it’s science.  and it’s proven.  I’ve seen it work time and time again.  As long as you follow the rules and work hard in class and be good with food when you’re being good, so you can be real bad when you’re being bad 🙂


1) 30:90 x 5

Before your meal, complete an interval workout blast containing 5 sets of a 30 seconds on, 90 second rest.  take 10-15 minutes to warm up before doing these sets and 5 minutes to cool down.  The body will respond in two ways – 1) deadens the blood sugar response from any sugar you might eat soon after.  2) sends blood sugar (from your refeed meal) to the muscles to be stored as energy as opposed to the fat stores to be stored as fat.   This workout needs to 30 seconds of something intense – it can be riding a bike, sprinting down a pool or some kind of hill sprint.  Or even running up bleachers.  But it has to be intense.  we’re talking 100% effort for 30 seconds or you won’t get the muscle response we’re looking for and it won’t be as effective as we’re wanting.

Essentially, the energy goes to muscles and the muscle energy is much easier to burn than the multiple chemical processes it takes to break down fat into energy.  Think money in your wallet vs money in your parents account that you would have to ask permission for, wait for mum or dad to go to the bank, listen to their speech about responsible saving, etc etc etc…

After your 5th set, you'll want to feel kinda like this guy...

After your 5th set, you’ll want to feel kinda like this guy…

2) Grapefruit juice

Just before your meal – fructose is bad, mmmkay?  But when used sparingly and in the right setting, it can dull the sugar response that would normally happen after consuming massive amounts of sugar.  This means your body doesn’t have much of an insulin response, which means you don’t have as much of a ‘fat storage alarm’ that sends the body into fat storage mode.

3) Coffee, Yerba Matte or Peppermint Tea

Just before your meal.  Stop complaining.  Do you want to eat your double chocolate fudge sundae or not?  That’s what I thought.  The purpose of this is to get the bodies digestive system moving as quick as possible – essentially, to have the body THINK it’s just taken in a bunch of energy so the metabolism bumps up and we are on the fat burning highway once again, but to then quickly ‘whisk it away’ before it has a chance to settle into the system and become thigh reserves.  So that’s two drinks you need to have just before your meal.  I might recommend just making them in the morning and taking them with you.  They don’t need to be hot or cold – just make sure you get your juice and digestive stimulant into you just before you dig in.

4) High Protein No Carb Breakfast.

You’re about to ingest a bunch of carbs.  Balance it out ahead of time by having more eggs or protein than you would normally have at the start of the day.  Normally we’re looking for a balance of healthy fats, fiber, protein and carbs.  But in this case, you’re about to eat… well, who knows what’s in it.  Bundles of love, rainbows and rainbow brite sprinkles.  so let’s offset it with a guaranteed protein boost earlier in the day.

5) 2 hour window

You’ve got a limited amount of time for this meal, so if you can, workout, hit the shower and go order.   If you do the workout in the morning then wait the rest of the day you’ll have lost the effect of the workout.  You can eat whatever you want as long as it’s in that 2 hour window and you’ve had your 2 drinks and high protein breakfast beforehand.

6) No scale for 4 days

Your body will go through a reaction followed by a metabolic response followed by actual fat loss.  It’s a rollercoaster that you can put your body through about once every 7-10 days, now that you’ve been on the food plan for at least 6 weeks and have a body that you can push hard that won’t collapse in a heap the next day.



7) No Leftovers

You get to sit down and eat whatever you want until your 2 hour window is over.  Bon Appetit.  With my blessing.  No guilt required.  But don’t take it home.  Think of it the same way you would that guy/girl you met at spring break – you know, the one that was fun to be with while you were there, but you knew that if your parents got to meet them that it would be more hassle than what it would be worth.

8) Drink a gallon of water throughout the day

You’re gonna want to do this anyway, because after a massive consumption of foods that are primarily irritants to the body (delicious irritants I will grant you, but irritants nonetheless) by drinking a large amount of water you’ll move them through and dilute their impact on your body.   From a scientific perspective, you’re gonna feel like crap.  So drink up!  I find a plastic gallon water bottle with pen marks on the side will allow you to schedule your water intake to get it done.

There’s your rules!  

The result of about 2 years of research and consulting with different fat loss specialists, dietitians and nutritionists.  Don’t share it with friends.  They won’t understand and all they’ll hear is ‘I can eat whatever I want if I drink grape juice before my meal’.  Just smile and tell them it’s your reward meal for putting up with the awful trainers at Bonza Bodies Fitness 🙂

While you’re here:

Some other non-related tips for eating the right foods in general during the week:

Choose bland foods

Foods with a weak flavor or smell are ones that we find it easier to eat less of.  Think bland soups, foods that don’t have large amounts of sugar, salt or spice to them.

Eat unfamiliar foods

If you go to a restaurant, order something you’ve never seen nor are you quite sure what it is (but that still looks healthy, of course).  Ratatouille, anyone?   Generally speaking, the more unfamiliar the food, the less likely we are to overindulge on it simply because our brain isn’t sure what to do with it.  Think about a meal you ate as a child (maybe thanksgiving) there are certain foods that have a psychological advantage over our puny willpower muscles.

Some general reminders for success:

Supplement Free Things To Do Every Day:

Eat a tablespoon of almond butter upon waking (stabilize blood sugar)

Eat your breakfast within 30 minutes to an hour of rising.

Glass of water before every meal or snack

Eat at least a fistful of protein with every meal.

Drink a glass of red wine after your dinner

Chew your food.  A lot.  The chewing process breaks down food and increases speed of digestion

Food plan:

Make every meal a mixture of vegetables, beans and high quality lean protein and make sure you have a small amount of fat in every meal (oil from cooking or add some avocado).

Use spicy and savory flavors on your food rather than sweet.

Don’t be afraid of fat, just get it from hormone free animal fat, olive oil, macadamia or coconut oil.  You can have up to ½ an avocado a day.

If you need a snack then either try to find a high protein snack or try to eat more protein in the preceding meal the next day (eg if you feel hungry after lunch, try eating more protein for lunch the next day)

Now go forward, enlightened one.

Today is a new day, and later this week will be time for a meal that will have you feeling full and satisfied and happy with yourself.  It’s a new beginning.  Congratulations to you for being at this part on your journey.

(insert sound of angels singing)

(insert sound of angels singing)