Greg Sher of iKillFat hangs out at The Seed HQ to solve some fitness mysteries and questions from The Seed audience.
Me: Please introduce yourself.
Greg: My name is Greg Sher, founder of I Kill Fat Manhattan personal training. I’ve been a personal trainer here in New York City for about 5 years now and I’ve been plant-based for about 3 and a half of those years.
Me: When did you transition to a plant-based diet?
Greg: The idea of veganism was planted during my teenage years actually. I grew up listening to a lot of vegan hardcore bands like Earth Crisis, Good Riddance, and Propagandhi just to name a few. They all sang about animal liberation, so at a relatively early age the idea of adopting a vegetarian lifestyle was there, I just didn’t act on it until about 4 years ago even though I always thought eating meat was wrong. Now that I’ve been plant-based for a few years I have to say it feels good to live a life inline with my morals. Plus I’ve never felt as good physically or mentally on a vegan diet.
Me: Can you tell us about what transformation you went through (eating habits, etc?)
Greg: I went from eating about 3000 calories worth of meat and dairy every day to easing into the plant-based lifestyle. The first thing I noticed was my energy levels were through the roof. It felt amazing not to run back and forth to Starbucks to make it through my day. My job as a personal trainer is physically demanding, so to depend on natural food other than caffeine was a huge deal for me. Another thing that I happened was I dropped about 5 pounds in a week which I thought was pretty cool.
Me: I Kill Fat. Not a bad name. So how do we kill fat? How do we help people kill fat?
Greg: Resistance training. I’m a huge advocate of strength training for all of my clients. I think a lot of people who want to lose weight shy away from the weight training side of exercise because they are worried they’ll bulk up. Or perhaps they are intimidated to step in the weight room like I was, since I didn’t know what to do or how to work any of the machines back when I first got into fitness. As we get older your metabolism slows down and it’s harder to maintain lean muscle. You want to keep your muscles for a number of reasons. One of which is the more lean muscle you have, the more calories you burn per day, which will definitely help reduce body fat. It’s a mistake to just do cardio because then you’ll have a “skinny fat” physique where you might slim down a bit, but your muscles won’t be as defined as they would be if you were lifting weights. I’m a huge fan of free weights, but I’m also a Pilates instructor so I incorporate a lot of body weight exercises into training programs too.
Me: What kind of services to you provide?
Greg: For one, I encourage my clients to call/text/email me anytime if they have questions. I know how easy it is to negate a workout by eating the wrong things, so if I know my client has a big work dinner, I urge them to email me the menu of the restaurant they’re going to so I can help them choose the healthiest option for them. I track my client’s calories on online food journals and I offer as much nutritional guidance as I can. Plus I make it as convenient as possible for my clients to train as I always choose a gym that’s either close to where they live or work. I come to them.
Me: Who are your favorite vegan athletes?
Greg: I love vegan fighters. Mac Danzig, the Diaz Brothers, Jake Shields all come to mind. I always root for the vegan in the ring. Someone who was extremely inspirational for me to become vegan is John Joseph, the author of “Meat is for Pussies” and the lead singer of one of my favorite bands Cro-Mags. He is a beast on stage and I think he just finished an Iron Man which is pretty intense.
Me: You keep recommending me to do more Yoga. What is the importance of Yoga?
Greg: I feel like flexibility is the most overlooked aspect of fitness. We are all flexible as children and as we get older we all lose flexibility. Cardiovascular exercise as well as resistance training is very important, but if you can’t touch your toes what good is it? I have done different styles of Yoga and I personally prefer hot Yoga. I like that my muscles are strengthened and lengthened during the exercises, plus it has done wonders for my joints over the years. You have a bit of a shoulder issue as well as a tight lower back, so Bikram Yoga was something I thought of for you. Plus I truly enjoy the mental tranquility I get from doing a class. This is ironic because I pretty much hate my life for the entire time I’m doing the actual postures in a Bikram class. It just goes to show you, the exercises you don’t like doing are usually the ones you need to do most.
Me: We are all creatures of habit. How do we create good exercise habits?
Greg: Be realistic with your goals. I see a lot of people set themselves up for failure with unrealistic goals. They end up burning themselves out and then losing interest in fitness. If you have never ran a mile, don’t sign up for a marathon next month. Don’t give yourself too many free passes though. Ease into. It won’t happen overnight. It takes a long time for something to become habitual. I think having a workout partner is a good way to stay on top of your game. If you have someone to go to the gym with it makes for a very efficient use of workout time. You will both be helping and encouraging each other. Start going the gym, start experimenting with different forms of exercise and doing your own research to help formulate your own routine.
Me: What are your thoughts on Body Fat, VS BMI VS BMR?
Greg: Body fat is what percentage of your body is lean muscle mass and what percentage of it is actually body fat. The most accurate way to figure this out is by using callipers. There is a 7 skinfold sight test that you can take where you can find out what your true body fat percentage is. Use calipers, not the little hand held things they have at health fairs.
BMI, which stands for body mass index is an outdated formula that I don’t believe is used anymore. It doesn’t take into consideration muscle mass. You could be 5’5, 190lbs of solid muscle, but this particular calculation doesn’t take into consideration your muscle mass, so according to the BMI this 5 foot five, 190 pounder would probably be considered morbidly obese, when in reality he could be quite the opposite. BMR is my favorite thing to calculate, especially with my weight loss clients. The BMR is your Basal Metabolic Rate, which is how many calories you need to consume per day to maintain your current weight. So naturally if you want to lose weight, you calculate your BMR and make sure you consume a few hundred calories less per day. I think calculating your BMR is one of the smartest things you can do to jumpstart your weight loss program. If you go to my website ikillfat.com, the equation is my glossary.
Me: How about the 80/10/10 ratio of Carbs to protein to fat? What are your thoughts on this ratio?
Greg: I’ve read different theories on the percentages of the macronutrients you should be consuming, and I believe everybody is different. I don’t think a professional bodybuilder, who’s main goal is to “bulk up” should be consuming the same percentages of macronutrients as a soccer mom who wants to lose 10 pounds. I like to get to know what my clients goals are before I suggest anything nutritional. But universally I think everyone could benefit from more plant-based meals.
Me: What are nutrient dense foods?
Greg: Nutrient dense foods are foods that will sustain you with long lasting energy and provide you with not only the macronutrients you need like protein and carbs, but also the vitamins and minerals you need to live a super healthy life. Oatmeal is a food that comes to mind. Oatmeal is packed with slow digesting carbohydrates, and plenty of fiber and protein. Spinach is a nutrient dense food as well since it is low in calories, but packed with Iron, amino acids, and Vitamin A. It’s the crappy foods like white rice, candy, and soda that are rich in calories and provide the human body with nothing nutritious.
Me: Why do diets make you fat?
Greg: Probably because diets aren’t long term commitment. I hear the word “diet” and think of something very temporary. I don’t think it’s worth the time and energy to ever diet. If you are serious about getting in shape it has to be a lifestyle change. You have to be in it for the long term. I always say that if you eat clean Monday through Friday, and you keep your calories where they need to be during the week, you should reward yourself with two cheat meals during the weekend. This is just to keep you feeling human. Even though you should be serious about getting in shape. you should never feel deprived because then you’ll just be resentful about the training process. Plus, if you eat clean for 5 days straight your body easily bounces back after the 2 cheat meals during the weekend.
Me: We were talking about juice cleanses the other day, which is a big trend right now… You were not in favor of juice cleanses. How come?
Greg: When you juice, you extract the sugary water from a fruit and you leave behind all the good stuff like the digestive enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. You just consume the sugar water. So what happens is your blood sugar levels spike and a feel good hormone in your brain called Dopamine is released. This gives you a very temporary sugar high. After that, you have a comedown effect/sugar crash and then your body craves more sugar. That’s why it’s easy to get addicted to fruit juice. From a nutritional standpoint, if you consume anything that has more than 5 grams of sugar per serving, you store those extra calories as body fat, so it’s very counter productive to consume juice since it contains so many grams of sugar. I’ve had a few clients try juice cleanses while training with me, and they never perform well in the gym. Their strength is down and so is their focus. It just never seemed like a good idea from me.
Me: Do you need protein shakes to gain muscle?
Greg: You need protein to repair your muscles after a workout. The amino acids in protein help aid in muscle recovery, plus they do promote lean muscle mass. I think the body absorbs and digest nutrients better from whole foods, but protein powders are easy and economical. Since I usually work out in between sessions, I don’t have time to sit down and dine in at Candle 79 after exercise. Right now my cabinets are stocked with Vega and Plantfusion protein powder. They have plenty of grams of protein, they taste great, and they hardly have any sugar.
Me: Any closing comments?
Greg: Please visit my website at ikillfat.com and download my free eBook “Killing Fat Through Risistance Training. Also, if you’re thinking about getting in shape, or doing something specific like preparing for a marathon, or you have a wedding coming up, or whatever the reason is, feel free to contact me anytime. The first session is always free.