Overcoming Adversity and Strength Coaching [transcript]

Written by Christopher Kelly

Sept. 18, 2018


Tommy:    Hello and welcome to the Nourish Balance Thrive podcast. My name is Tommy Wood, and today I am joined by NBT's new Head of Strength and Conditioning, Zach Moore. Hey, Zach.

Zach:    Hey, Tommy.

Tommy:    So, Zach, you've been working with our clients about three to four months now, so we figured it was high time to get you your own podcast so we could know a bit more about you. You've been working with people, primarily focusing on nutrition and training, but also all the other things that we do, looking at sleep, stress, gut health, lifestyle, general life prioritization when you're trying to hit some performance goals.

    For people who haven't worked with you and the rest of our listeners, maybe you can give us a bit of background about yourself and your training and work and how you got to what you're doing today.

Zach:    First off, thanks for having me, I'm excited to be with NBT. It has been a lot of fun so far. As I was telling you before the call, my introduction could be really long or somewhat short. I'll give you somewhat of a condensed version then we can dive into whatever you feel is relevant.

    Growing up, I was a super active kid. I played a ton of sports, basketball, baseball, football. I ended up settling on golf and tennis in high school and then going into college, I chose tennis. I played tennis, collegiately, for two years before I was basically forced to quit because of two knee surgeries I had on the same knee.

    The doctors pretty much told me, "Hey, Zach, these surgeries aren't helping much. It looks like you're still in a lot of pain. It's probably best for you just to lay off the sports and focus on other things." That was a pretty big bummer to hear. So I just dug into my studies and became a lot more serious about school.

    I ended up graduating. I got my undergrad in -- people probably think it's interesting to hear this, but my degree is actually in Economics and Mathematics. Then I went on to get my Master's in Economics and Applied Statistics. My original plan was just probably go and get my PhD.

    My wife and I were actually -- well, girlfriend at the time -- were looking at PhD schools actually while I was getting my Master's but because of the turn of events, which we can talk more about, I actually accepted an internship at a private training facility. They did personal training, strength coaching.

    I accepted an internship there as a strength coach/personal trainer in Indianapolis, and I did that for a full semester. They hired me right after that as a personal trainer, strength coach. The name of the gym was and still is Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training.

    It has actually been ranked one of the top ten gyms in the US by Men's and Women's Health. It's pretty well-known. We've coached a lot of top people. I've actually had a few interns that are now heads of Strength and Conditioning in NFL, NBA, stuff like that, so it was a really good place, and I was very fortunate to get there.

    Again, I'll go back to how I got there in a second, but essentially I worked there for about four to five years just as a coach. Everyone that went to that gym had to work with a trainer at least once a week. No one was able to just come in and train on their own. It was very much individualized. Everybody that came had a program written specifically for them based on an assessment by our physical therapist.

    It's very hands-on. I learned a lot there, so I worked there for about four to five years. Then as I worked there, I began to realize that addressing lifestyle factors, nutrition, a lot of things like that were just so important for people, and it was very hard to cover that as a trainer on the floor. You only have so much time with a client to teach them exercise and movement. So I became very fascinated in that.

    One of the companies that's really well-known for behavior change, they have a really big nutrition coaching program, is Precision Nutrition, and they had an opening for an online coach who would essentially coach one of their nutrition programs and they do lifestyle and health-based coaching.

    I applied for that, and I was very fortunate I got a job there. That has been my full-time job for the past -- this is my fifth year with them. They're based out of Canada. So I've done that, like I said, for close to five years. Here, recently, I'm working with NBT, and I also do the strength coaching and some private coaching through Ketogains as well. I'm one of their coaches as well.

    Going back to -- I mean, if you're okay with me talking a little more -- how I actually got from Economics to personal training, yeah, like I mentioned to you, I had those two knee surgeries and for a while, I was pretty depressed, upset because I had always been super active. I essentially began to just start learning as much as I could about knee function, anatomy, how can I improve this, how can I get it better, and through that I found a product called Bulletproof Knees.


    I don't know how I found it. I just Googled it. Anyways, I read that book, I followed the program which had some strength training in it which I had prior experience a little bit through football and through high school and things like that, and my knee, essentially, improved a lot but still wasn't where I wanted it to be.

    I eventually found out that the author of that book was actually the guy who owns Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training which was in Indianapolis where I got my Master's. I think it was my senior year of undergrad or my first year of my Master's, I drove up there, I became a member of the gym for about a year-and-a-half and during that time, my knee pain went away.

    I could play tennis again. I could run again if I wanted. It was gone. It was amazing. Through that, I started realizing, wow, this is something I really want to do. I saw how they were working with other people and how much, just, change they were making in people's lives. It was just so fascinating to me.

    I had always bugged Mike and Bill, the two owners, Mike Robertson and Bill Hartman, what should I read? If I ever want to do this, what would you recommend? By the time I had finished my Master's, I was more studying physiology and anatomy and biomechanics than I was economics.

    Yeah, I feel fortunate to have found them, and they guided me on my continuing ed and learning and prepping. Then when I was ready for the internship, I was able to get a ton of hands-on experience. I'm now a certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. I have that background. I have a few other certifications, but that's probably the big one that most people know.

Tommy:    What do you do in terms of rehabing your knee? Because I think a lot of people listening to this may be slightly worried about lifting weights or certain types of activity that we'll talk about more as we go through the podcast, and how that might affect their knees or their knee pain, so maybe you could talk, just broad strokes, about how you got your knees back online.

Zach:    I have something called osteocondritis which is basically, I have very little to no cartilage on the outer part of my knee. If I get any torsion or rotation in my knee then it's basically bone on bone. That's what they saw when they did an MRI on me, I mean, an X-ray. The bones were splintering apart.

    What strength training really helped me with was controlling my knee position, so I was getting really good knee flexion, extension, bending and straightening and rotation and gliding on the kneecap which you need. Also just running side to side in tennis and all that stuff, you really need good hip strength, support and stability around the knee joint. You need musculature to control all of that. That is essentially what helped me.

    If I'm lazy at any point, with my form with weightlifting or if I do something crazy, I can feel that spot again but just getting stronger just helps, overall, improved the position of your knee. That's why most people get a knee injury, some type of weird hit that's acute or, over time, it can be wear and tear from just poor knee control. Strength training is really valuable in that regard, just building the muscles and stabilizers around your knee joint, your hip.

Tommy:    From my personal experience, I definitely know that actually the more time I spend squatting, the better my knees feel which is the exact opposite of what many people would think, but that certainly is how it tends to play out is the stronger you can make the muscles around the knee, around that joint, the more stable it is and, generally, the better it performs.

Zach:    Yes, that's very true. Yeah, I always feel better on days I move. Actually when I travel and I'm really sedentary, that's when my knee acts up more than any other time. I've heard that from a lot of clients I've trained as well. You just feel more stable and everything after you train. That goes for back pain, shoulder pain, anything, so, yeah.

Tommy:    You mentioned other people you've worked with went down the route of professional sports teams, Head of Strength and Conditioning for NFL or NBA. Was that a path that you considered? What made you want to, instead, do the online coaching work that you ended up doing?

Zach:    I really enjoyed engaging with people, building relationships and just finding out what made them tick. It was almost like a puzzle for me. How can I really help this person reach their goal? That's what really brought me to Precision Nutrition or online coaching was that aspect of working with someone personally and having the time to do that to really figure out what exactly they needed.

    I was never really -- don't get me wrong, I love the nerdy physiology and all of that stuff and working with athletes and the complex program you can get into. I really enjoy that, but it wasn't as rewarding to me as just working with someone who didn't quite need that much complexity and it wasn't their sole life and focus.


Tommy:    When you translate the first four or five years of your career as a strength and conditioning coach, it's hands-on, in the gym, personal trainer style and then now most of your work if not all of your work is done online. How did that change the way that you had to approach working with somebody? Does the relationship between coach and client change and then how do you make sure the people are working through all that kind of stuff because you're not there watching them in person?

Zach:    Yeah, that's really a good question, something I struggled with for a long time because, for me, I felt like what made me a good coach in person was, for one, I cared. Someone could tell on my face. I loved to be there. I was excited to see them. I made every effort to bring it for them every day in the gym. That is hard to show, more difficult to show online, but there are ways to do that. I think that's just super important as a coach is to connect with a client and to show them that you truly care, and there are ways to do that.

    One thing I did when I first started coaching is, if someone mentioned to me, "Hey, my son has a baseball game this weekend," or just mention little things, I would put a reminder on my phone, and I would just text them on that day. Hey, I hope your son has a good game. I'd make it clear to them that I'm thinking about them and things. I think that really helped because, again, it just -- I think that was a part of what made me a good coach was trying to connect with people and showing them that.

Tommy:    I know the way Precision Nutrition works is you're often having to deal with tens if not hundreds of clients at a time. How do you create that feeling of being really connected with a person when there are essentially so many of them that you're working with? How do you protect yourself so that you're not constantly overwhelmed in terms of people contacting you or feeling like you have to continuously be deeply connected with so many people at a time which is obviously more likely to happen when you're working with them, largely, remotely?

Zach:    The coaching program is a yearlong so definitely the first part of the year is challenging. Normally we send out a questionnaire about two weeks before the program, so that gives me a lot of time to study the clients and get to know their information really well. It can seem surprising.

    With PN, when I first started working with them, I had anywhere from a little over 150 clients, whereas, now, I have anywhere from close to 350 clients which seems like a ton, and it is, but it's really surprising. After a week or two, I really know each of them pretty darn well.

    I won't pretend I have the best work-life balance. Having a kid definitely helped. I have a little 19-month-old, so it has forced me to step away, but I definitely check my messages a lot, I definitely check-in often.

    One thing about PN is, since it's that large, we have our own curriculum that's already delivered every day so it's not like I have to teach them everything from the beginning. It's more that I help them brainstorm, troubleshoot if they're struggling to stick to the curriculum, something like that. Whereas with NBT, we don't have quite as many clients per coach, and you're able to spend more time with each client, so it does differ a little bit.

Tommy:    How do you set up the training aspect of things? When you're not there with the person and while they're lifting, checking their technique, how are you making sure that you're really happy that somebody is doing what you want them to do and doing it safely?

Zach:    Yeah, so with PN, it's different. I do not write the programs for them. That's one reason why I hooked up with you guys and Ketogains as well because that's something I'm very passionate about, and that's something I was missing from coaching. We actually have a guy who writes the programming, and we have probably 18 to 20 different programs, and they're periodized over the year.

    They're good programs, but we filter people to those programs based on their goals, their questionnaire and stuff like that. I can also switch people into different tracks, based on what they're doing. With PN, it's lower price point and I can't quite deliver the level of personal that I would like to with that. The price point does reflect that.

    With that program, they do have a box they check every day if they did their workout or did not do their workout. I track that, so I can see trends of people who haven't been doing as well lately. As far as form, I always encourage people to send me videos if they want. That's how I do it through Precision Nutrition.

Tommy:    Working with us and the guys that you're coaching through NBT, we have a bit more time and obviously the scope is a completely personalized training program and spend some time working through form with people, what's the best way to set up that? Because online Strength and Conditioning coach relationship, working on form but then also gauging success and progress, how do you monitor that?


Zach:    With NBT, I start with usually a Zoom call or call with the client to just discuss with them their goals, their training history, their background, things like that. I also have a pretty extensive questionnaire that really asks them a lot of questions in terms of, like I said, what's their previous history with lifting, what are their goals, how much are they prepared to train versus willing to train? I ask them a ton of stuff. What kind of program gave you the best results? What kind of program could you stick with the longest?

    I really try to meet clients where they're at because this is something that us at NBT have talked a lot about is how to meet clients where they're at, not give them a program that overwhelms them but, at the same time, don't give them something that underwhelms them because it can go the other way where clients, they feel like, oh, I'm not going to to do this, this looks so easy. I was doing way more than this.

    It's really trying to figure out, and it varies a lot from person to person, just what they're willing to do, what would be fun for them and what they could be consistent with, but balancing that with what is optimal. Because again, like I said, you have the perfect program but if someone will not follow that program or be consistent with it then it's useless.

    So along with the video call, along with the questionnaire, I'll usually write them something up. Depending on their personality, I'll usually try to somewhat make it fairly simple for them. I want them to think, wow, I can definitely do this, and then over time, ramp it up from there.

    We'll usually share a Google spreadsheet or something like that, and I'll have them track their weights in there, so I can check in and see if they're lifting, how they're progressing over time. They can insert videos in there that I can check. We usually do follow-up calls fairly often. That's usually how I follow their progress over time.

Tommy:    When you're starting to build a program for people, often the guys that we're working with are trying to maximize performance but that doesn't necessarily have to be in a strength field as often in certain sports where strength is beneficial or will reduce injury risk, but the absolute strength in itself isn't necessarily the goal.

    If you're thinking about living a long and healthy life then certain aspects of strength are certainly important, but absolute strength or getting as strong as you possibly could isn't necessarily the target you need to have, and there are also other things that you could focus on.

    Can you talk a little bit about what the minimum effective dose might be in terms of movements and volume for somebody who is thinking about and choosing strength training in order to support all those other health goals that they might have?

Zach:    That's a good question. Again, it goes back to what they're willing to do. If someone is only able to make it to the gym once a week then that's what they can do. In an ideal scenario, I do usually, typically like to see people train most movement patterns, which I talked about, in a minute at least, twice a week. That would be ideal.

    There are studies showing, one set to failure once a week can give you great results, so that can work, but usually most show more is a little bit better and especially when it comes to strength. Strength tends to benefit a little more from just more frequent practice, exposure, and also we just know that exercise, especially strength training in general, does a lot of good things for you metabolically, glucose disposal and just bone density.


    Again, we talked about strength and muscle are very important. If you want specific numbers, this is very general, but hit each movement pattern two to three times a week for two to three sets each. That's a simple minimum that I usually mention. In terms of reps, reps honestly don't matter a whole lot. You can basically get stronger on any rep range.

    You can build muscle on any rep range as long as it's about -- I mean, again, we can go more in-depth on this if we need to, but I'm just throwing out numbers -- 30% of your true one rep max on an exercise. You can basically build muscle on any rep range. As long as you're challenging yourself for those sets, I would not over-think reps too much.

    Now if it's an endurance athlete, they're already out running a lot or biking a lot or something like that, I would have stick to lower reps just because I'm not trying to condition it. I'd rather than get in there, get out and train a different quality, but those are -- I don't know if that answered your question all the way, but those are some numbers, if people want specifics, but it does vary.

Tommy:    You're talking about, if you're [0:19:42] [Indiscernible], you're going to failure or close to failure then whatever the weight is above 30%, you'll probably see most of those gains. Similarly, if people talk about trying to make sure that they recruit all of their muscle fibers so they're working intense enough, and I think we were talking about this recently and you mentioned it slightly, once you're above 50 to 60% of your max then you're always going to be recruiting all of your muscle fibers, so you don't need to over-think that either because that's something that comes up a lot.


Zach:    Yeah, and that's what I would say, is the heavier you are lifting then the less close to failure you have to go. So if you're doing a lot of reps, that's okay, but you're going to have to push a little closer to failure, whereas, yeah, I think it's above 75, 85% of one rep max. From the very first rep, you're recruiting all muscle fibers so going to failure is not as important.

    I just track sets in terms of exercise volume because some people aren't interested in volume or the amount of work you're doing as sets times rep but, really, if you're pushing most sets to close to failure or going heavy enough, then really it's just the total sets of the workout that matters. That was one thing I forgot to mention was the movement patterns themselves.

Tommy:     When people talk about movement patterns, they always seem to reference Dan John and push, pull, squat, hinge and carries. Are those your movement patterns or do you work off a different set?

Zach:    I'm a huge Dan John fan. I don't always give everyone carries. That does vary, but those other four are definitely the movement patterns. I usually split up upper body, a push and a pull and a vertical and horizontal. That's exactly it. Dan John is a huge mentor for me.

Tommy:    This actually brings me onto another question I had, is that when you hear strength coaches talk about how they work or how they program, they often list the other coaches that they learned from or that inspired them, which I really like because in many other coaching realms, the person always likes to pretend that they knew everything from the start and they reinvented everything themselves, whereas in reality, they probably learned from those other people.

    The Strength and Conditioning world is really greater mentioning the other great people in the field who are doing great stuff that they're learning from. In line with that, I was wondering if you could talk about your influences. You mentioned Dan John, and he was certainly the guy everybody mentioned maybe about a decade ago, I think, but there are certainly other guys who have come onto the field more recently, or have come to the form more recently.

    Could you talk about who inspired you in terms of your approach and then what that means practically?

Zach:    Yeah, definitely, Mike Robertson, Bill Hartman, the guys who own the gym I worked at, they definitely had a huge influence on me in terms of programming and also just my eye, being able to see good movement. I feel like that was so important, and they definitely hammered that home for me.

    Related to those two is Eric Cressey. He is similar circle as they are in terms of how he coaches and stuff like that. When I was first programming for people, I bought a lot of his books and used a lot of his templates for the programs I wrote initially. He's a really good guy.

    Lately, in terms of just pure strength training, I have benefited a lot from Mike Tuscherer. I'm a big fan of autoregulation and using RPE, rating of perceived exertion, or reps and reserve to autoregulate training. He has had a big influence on me there.

    I would also say Menno Henselmans. He is probably the biggest influence on me, maybe, I would have to say. I took his Bayesian Bodybuilding course, and he just puts out a lot of good material. Just from him, I mainly just learned what is optimal when it comes to research. If a client is going to do exactly what you want them to do, here's what the research would say you should do, so he was really helpful.

    Borge Fagerli is another one who I really like. He's more of a minimalist now these days. He has also had a son, and he recently has had a big impact on me on finding that minimum effective dose, not letting training rule your life and making it work for you. I really like his material.

    Some other ones that have come on lately that I just always read their stuff, like Greg Nuckols, Eric Helms, Mike Israetel, I'm sure I'm blanking on a lot of other ones but those are, Brad Schoenfeld, yeah, I would say those are some of the biggest ones.

Tommy:    That's great. I was going to ask you about resources, but you've just listed all of them. We can make sure that they go in the show notes. There are some great stuff like the mass research that Greg Nuckols does, and his website, Stronger by Science, is pretty awesome if you like 12,000-word-long essays about how to get stronger.

Zach:    I would say, if you like YouTube videos, Alan Thrall has a really good YouTube video on exercise form and technique. I really like his stuff. James Krieger also has a monthly membership site which he does a really good job of combining studies and interpreting them and things like that.

Tommy:    I guess talking about minimum effective dose or what we can do to try and get stronger, get healthier through resistance-type training, we've had a lot of people talk about non-weight-based in terms of barbells, dumbbells types of resistance exercise, so using bands or body weight techniques with stuff like super slow lifting, Doug McGuff's Body by Science, or isometric training, he often recommends, as well as things like blood flow restriction training.



    Can you talk about your thoughts on those and when they might be beneficial versus when you just need to suck it up and go and pick up a barbell?

Zach:    It's very context-dependent but like I said, if your goal is just to get stronger and build some muscle, you can do that with band, you can do that with body weight. If you could do that with a slower tempo, I'm not always a huge fan of that, but that does work. Blood flow restriction training, all that can work but like I said, the lighter the resistance, you're really going to have to push closer to failure so if you're using bands or you're using body weight, you may have to adjust your positioning to make the exercise more challenging.

    For example, something like a body weight squat for somebody like you, Tommy, who squats a lot of weight, there's just no way. You would have to really alter. Something like a single leg squat or something would be more beneficial. I'm a big fan of body weight stuff because, again, I want to make it approachable for people.

    Some people just can't get to the gym, so I really don't see many times where that can't work necessarily. If your goal is to get as strong as possible, to lift the most weight as possible then you're probably going to have to put some weight on a barbell. For most other people, I don't really see that you do have to engage in barbell training necessarily.

Tommy:    Certainly from the programs that I've seen you write for people, you definitely use both approaches, depending on what's in front of you. That's probably the most important thing rather than worrying about which will be optimal. It's what you can do versus what might be best but you don't have the time or the access or the equipment.

Zach:    Yeah.

Tommy:    One of the things that is obviously part of you but which you haven't mentioned up until this point is the fact that you were born missing the lower half of your right arm. Anybody listening to you talk about playing golf or playing tennis would probably be quite surprised at this point if they didn't know that, but the fact that you didn't mention that is testament to how it's just part of you and you get around it.

    I'm interested to know how this maybe affected your career, if at all, and then how you adapted around it in terms of your coaching and training. Because obviously a lot of the lifts that we talk about are designed or generally done by people who have two full arms and two full hands, which you don't, so maybe you could talk about how you adapted those things for yourself so that you can do them too.

Zach:    It's so funny. You sent me a few questions before this, and I saw that mentioned. I literally did totally forget about it with my intro just because I do forget about it a lot of times. I was born this way and basically just right below the elbow, I don't really have anything beyond my elbow, and just something I forget about a lot.

    I've learned to modify most things and so it doesn't really hinder me in any way. I find that fun, to find ways to work around it but as far as my career, it helped with some populations in terms of, they see, wow, he can do this, I can do this. Or if they have a limitation that's holding them back, they feel a little more comfortable talking to me about how to modify or change things, just give them confidence so that they can do something.

    Because sometimes I will get clients who are like, oh, I injured my ankle, I'm probably just going to layout. I'm probably just going to hold off on training. Whoa, whoa, whoa, we're going to be able to find ways to work around that and just open my mind up to different possibilities. Like I said, I've just become creative at how I do things.

    I sent you guys some videos that you can link in the show notes, of how I adapt a lot of the lifts, but I've been able to learn to deadlift and bench press and do pull-ups and even clean from the floor. It has been fun for me. I think getting hired at Precision Nutrition, that did appeal to them a little bit just because I was able to overcome adversity. I think they like seeing that and that can be helpful for some clients who are struggling in that way.

Tommy:    You probably have seen there's a linebacker who just got drafted to the NFL who has something similar. He has got slightly more of a lower arm, but he's missing the hand. You watch him doing 25 bench presses with 225 pounds in the combine, and you think, well, if he can do it then pretty much anybody can adapt around anything that's going on.

Zach:    Yes, I literally just saw that. It's so funny. Someone posted in the Ketogains Facebook group about, hey, my husband is missing his hand. Does anyone know anyone who could help? Someone tagged me but then someone else is like, that's an NFL player. With a son now, I hardly ever watch TV or do anything, but I hadn't even heard about it. I saw that and I was like, wow, that's pretty crazy.

Tommy:    With so much experience that you have now in terms of working with people, I'm interested to know what the easiest mistakes to eliminate might be in terms of somebody trying to improve their body composition. That's obviously going to be a very popular thing both to Precision Nutrition and to Ketogains and the guys who you work with at NBT.


    Obviously you've worked with a huge range of dietary approaches, as well as a huge range of training approaches, so maybe you could just give us some of the highlights or lowlights in terms of things that are most likely going to be mistakes or might hold people back and then maybe some tools to help restructure that so that they're more likely to hit their goals.

Zach:    I thought about this a little bit, and this one is challenging. There are a lot of mistakes, but they always differ, person to person. I would say, one thing that we see a little bit and -- because NBT is known in the low carb realm, I would say, so just a simple one that, I think, some people ignore in that realm, not always, but thinking how much they eat doesn't matter, just thinking food quality matters.

    Definitely I'm a huge fan of addressing food quality first because that tends to regulate appetite and makes things easier, but how much you eat does still matter. You can definitely overeat on just fruits and nuts and meats and things like that. It does matter so just start paying attention to your hunger and satiety cues and things like that instead of just eating what's on your plate if it is mostly whole food.

    I would say another thing is just failing to account for life and lifestyle behaviors, so, stress, sleep, all of that, I think, people really ignore. All of those things really impact your ability to make good decisions. They impact your ability to sense into your hunger, to make a good choice when you do have a goal, so I definitely think addressing those is huge.

    I think having unreasonable expectations is really big. I work with a lot of clients who assume that just, you give them a meal plan and they're going to stick to it perfectly and fat loss will only take so long. This stuff is challenging. No matter what your goal is in terms of body comp, it's not easy. Getting muscle, losing fat, they can be challenging. So having realistic expectations about how long it's going to take and just how much time you're going to have to invest in it is really helpful for people.

    Also, just failing to plan or make time, like we were talking about with exercise, I don't want it to take a lot of time but at some point, it does become something that you're going to have to take action on it. Whether that's grocery shopping, prepping on meals, looking into a milk delivery service, whatever that is, it's going to take a little bit of time.

    In Precision Nutrition, for example, our very first habit or the thing that we teach is called Make Time, and that's essentially, we want you to block out some time in your calendar during the week where you can fit these things in because you're the only person that can make that stuff a priority and can schedule that. So that's a big one.

    Last one, I'll say, is just using a program or plan that's suited to someone else and maybe that doesn't fit your preferences, your lifestyle, your level of advancement, whatever that is. I think people who are most successful are really in it for the long run because no coach can give a client the perfect plan right away. It takes time to figure out what works for you.

    We know some general principles like eat mostly whole foods, eat probably 80% full, get enough sleep, all of that stuff, but when it comes to the minutiae, when it comes to how many meals you eat a day, when it comes to, should we eat more carbs or more fats, versus one or another, how you skew your calories in the day, we have some indicators on what might be best but it's finding a routine that works for you.

    I get clients that are frustrated after a few weeks of -- let's say, their goal is to lose weight and they haven't dropped yet. They're frustrated that they maintain weight, and I understand that. But if they're making better choices, if you're doing other things to get your goal then -- the scale is only telling you so much about the amount of food you're eating, so you could definitely be more healthy, you could be in a better place, and it could be just a small change.

    You really just have to use that stuff as information and adjust your variables as you go over time. I like to look at it as an experiment, just adjust one variable, see how things change. Obviously it's never that easy, but first thinking it out, that's how to approach it. Learn what works for you, learn what you can be consistent with and adjust things based on that.

Tommy:    That's the perfect, sensible answer. It's just, sadly, that's not always the most popular answer, but that's the right thing that people need to hear.

    I think people might be interested in how the Ketogains or how your work with Ketogains has gone. I know there's a lot of argument out in the bodybuilding or strength and conditioning or just body recomposition world, arguments about dietary types and whether low carb is best or worst or doesn't make any difference.


    Maybe you could just give us an overview of how you've been having people trained as part of your Ketogains work and then also how people are eating, what their general patterns of diet look like then maybe what some of the results are looking like in the time scale there.


Zach:    One thing I was attracted to Ketogains was we don't say everyone should be keto or being ketosis.    It's just if you're going to follow a ketogenic diet then we want to teach you probably the best way to do it based on what we've learned and our experience and things like that.

    What we do is we host boot camps for people, and usually what that entails is strength training. We're very much focused on strength training and so usually our programs are three to five days of lifting, based on whether you're beginner, intermediate or advanced.

    Basically the diet is a ketogenic diet, and the way we set it is we like to set protein based on your body weight or lean body mass. That's always pretty constant, based on how much you weigh and how much muscle mass you have. Carbs are kept to a minimum and then we use fat as a lever, based on your energy. If you're trying to gain muscle, we'll scale up fat and carbs a little bit. If your goal is to lose weight, we would scale fat back a little bit. Protein is pretty much always constant.

    But we do, we only focus on strength training. If you come to us and want to do something like an anaerobic sport or something like BJJ or something like that, we would tell you that carbohydrates are probably going to be beneficial especially around that event. It doesn't mean that you have to have it daily necessarily, but we may give you something like a targeted approach where you have carbs around it.

    We even have some clients who we slowly introduce carbs and get them up to 100, 150 and work on metabolic flexibility with them. Because, again, we're not dogmatic to something and we want to see what works for the person. They usually view it as a reset for most people but, yeah, it's a heavy focus on strength training because the goals are usually just health and aesthetics.

    In terms of health, strength is great, and just getting some low intensity movement is great. For aesthetics, nutrition is going to play the biggest role, but exercise shapes the body. So that's the idea.

Tommy:    Maybe you could talk about the likelihood or not of something like a ketogenic diet affecting performance in terms of ability to gain muscle or gain strength or do a certain type of weight-based training in the gym because we've been discussing this a lot between ourselves and the evidence in terms of it being detrimental, which is what many people might say, isn't really that great. Obviously you guys have been having some fabulous outcomes in your boot camp, so maybe you could talk about that a bit.

Zach:    If your goal is to get just as big as possible, muscle and everything like that, I think carbs are going to be beneficial simply because they do help increase your appetite. We know that insulin is anabolic, but protein, there are questions on that because if you're eating up protein and you're still getting a ton of insulin. I don't know that it's going to make a huge difference though.

    It does just depend on the sport. If you're just lifting, if you're a power athlete, a strength athlete, I don't see carbs really being needed, to be honest. I do think something like a targeted approach where you introduce some carbs around training could be beneficial. Beyond that, I don't know. I'm still just not convinced that it is needed.

    Based on the results that we see, again, this is purely anecdotal but it does really seem that people can maintain their leanness more easily with that approach while they are trying to build muscle. I will say, the gains are a little bit slower. Is that due to lack of glycogen? I can't say for sure.

    If someone's goal is to gain muscle, I don't see why a ketogenic diet cannot be used as long as protein is adequate, and the training. Protein and the stimulus via training are the two biggest variables. If you're just struggling with hunger or something else then carbs may be beneficial and I definitely don't think there's something to be scared of.

Tommy:    What is your training and nutrition look like at the moment?

Zach:    One thing we did not talk about, and this would probably be another podcast, when I had the knee surgery a long, long time ago, I mentioned I was depressed for a while. I got really down, and I actually went through a pretty low period. I developed an eating disorder, and I got very, very skinny which is in a bad place in terms of my health. I think I did a lot of bad things to my gut through all of that.

    As I tried to gain weight and things like that, I always had a lot of trouble with that, and that's one of the reasons I actually came to NBT and worked with you as a client. That's actually how I found about a ketogenic diet. I decided to try it because of that. That was helpful.


    I actually experimented here recently with a well-known carnivore-type diet, just meat basically, and that was very helpful as well. I actually gained probably the most weight I've gained just because I was able to eat very caloric-dense food. Just for some reason, it helped my gut a lot.

    Here, recently, I have started to introduce some more vegetables and fruits, some cheese, dark chocolate, but it's still pretty low carb just only because those are the foods I like. I like fatty meats, I like avocadoes and cheese and things like that, so I tend to eat two to three meals a day, which are largely meat. For lunch, I had a big, huge rib eye, some cheese, a little bit of zucchini, and what else did I have? I think that's about it.

    My strength training, I, with a son and I work from home, I found it easier to get out for very short periods of time but more frequently. I lift five to six days a week but my training is usually 30 to 40 minutes, including warm-up. I usually hit most body parts most days, so most of those movement patterns, I train most days, it's just I alter the intensity. If I had a heavy set of squats, the next day I may do blood flow restriction leg extensions and then the next day I may do a lunge. I manipulate intensity and volume that way.

    I just tend to feel better overall if I move more frequently, like we talked about earlier in the podcast. So that's where I'm at right now. We'll see. I'm tempted to go back to a carnivore -- I like to call it well-formulated just because I include oysters and sardines and bone broth and organ meats and gelatin and all of that stuff. I don't think it's necessarily optimal, long-term, possibly. I don't know. It just really helped me gain weight, and that's still another goal of mine so hopefully that will happen more and more.

Tommy:    Yeah, that's one of the things that we talked about in terms of the carnivore thing is that there's the potential that certain amino acids like those interconnected tissues and certain fats that you'll get from seafood and other nutrients or minerals that, things you're going to get from oysters, may be missing if all you're eating is pure muscle meat on a carnivore-type diet. Adding those back in, in my mind, is certainly going to make it more likely to beneficial in the long-term, but it's difficult to argue with a diet that makes you feel good and helps you gain lean mass if that's what your goal is.

Zach:    I know, I know, yeah, that's why I'm just so -- in the back of my mind, I'm nervous the whole time I'm doing it but at the same time, it was really helpful for me. You and I talked about possibly getting some blood work for maybe me doing another stint of it, just to see how it goes, and getting blood work again just might be fun, a little experiment to try or something. If we do that, maybe we can share with the audience or something. I feel like the more I learn, the less I know because something like that definitely makes me question other things, but it's good. It's good to experiment and, yeah, see what works for you.

Tommy:    Yeah, welcome to the club, that's definitely how I feel, to spend hours a day reading various things and then you just go away feeling less and less every day, but I'm confident that's a pretty good thing.

Zach:    Well, that's what I was telling your earlier on the Slack channel. Tommy posts a million papers a day in our little Slack channel. I'm like, Tommy -- I mean, I'm so excited every time you post one, but I'm like, oh, I'm getting behind or something. You just realize there's no way you could keep up with everything, but it makes it fun. I love to do it.

Tommy:    Well, that's the great part about having a team is that other people in the team can read stuff that you don't read and then you can ask them questions and then they'll have answers that you don't have and vice versa because you will have read stuff that they haven't read. I think that's one of the best aspects of working as part of a team rather than being a solo practitioner and having to know everything or feeling like you have to know everything.

    I guess I'm going to start wrapping up by talking about myself a little bit. I wasn't sure if I was going to do this, but I think it's important just in the context of the conversation we're having. I usually feel like if you're giving out the exact things that you're doing, it's sometimes poorly interpreted by the people. Nobody has the same training history. Nobody has the same health history.

    However, around the time that you joined NBT, I hired you as a my coach. You'd work with me and we swapped roles for a bit. You'd be my strength and conditioning coach. I think this is probably only the second time that I've done dedicated strength and conditioning training where that's the only thing that I'm doing because the first time that I've had a real coach to do it with me.

    I've done strength training as part of rowing and CrossFit or maybe to reduce my injury risk when I was doing a lot of ultra endurance stuff, but it has always been a bit secondary. So for somebody my size, I guess I've never been that strong. When we started working together, just to give people an example, I mainly wanted to get stronger in the squat and deadlift, the lower body movements.


    My previous PRs from a few years ago, I think it was about 375 pounds for the squat and deadlift of 440 pounds, 200 kilos. Now we've been working together for ten weeks, and I was just doing some heavy singles this week that you programmed for me, and not max lifts but just going heavy, depending on how good you feel. I got 405 pounds on the squat and 500 pounds on the deadlift which is, I'm super happy about that. My long-term goal was 500, that's a nice number, maybe I can hit that one day, and it has come up already which is really great.

    A huge part of that is working with you, somebody who knows what they're doing, programming based on my history and what I want to achieve and getting some great feedback on my technique. I think that's a lot of what I was missing was I spend a lot of time coaching other people, I've written strength and conditioning programs for other people, but when focusing inward on yourself, often we're much worse at doing that so even somebody who is a coach would benefit from getting a coach.

    I think a big part of that also is the fact that I take much better care of myself than I used to, in terms of either when I was undergrad or in med school or working as a doctor, very long hours, very little sleep, very little time to eat properly, all that kind of stuff. That's the stuff that I make a big deal of looking after, now.

    Also my volume has reduced pretty dramatically. We're talking about complexity or people expecting a lot more because they think they're very advanced athlete, and it needs to be super complex to get good gains, I've definitely experienced the downside of that by trying to bolt loads of different programs together because I'll just do all this stuff and that's going to make me an even better athlete then you make gains much more slowly.

    So just wanted to highlight the benefits, if you take care of the lifestyle stuff and you get a coach and you work on a focused program, you can make gains much faster than you maybe would have done, otherwise. Thanks to you for that. I'm very excited to do some more heavy lifting as we work together into the future.

Zach:    Yeah, it's awesome. If you're up for it, I think you should post it in the show notes because it was super easy. If you guys see the deadlift, it flew up, and he definitely had a lot more in it. One of the first things I said was, "Shoot man, we've got to go for 600 now." Because when he first sent me his goals and he put, "I want to get 500 deadlift," I was like, okay, we'll see. I think you sent me a video and lift -- I figured what it was, but it looked fairly heavy. I was like, yeah, we'll work towards that. Definitely you did at some point but, yeah, it flew up.

Tommy:    Immediately Chris said, "Oh, you've got to work on…" It's not heavy deadlift unless it's three times body weight, so that's going to be like 660. That may take a while. Anyway, we digress. Hopefully after this people will be really interested to find out some more about you, maybe work with you as a client through one of your various forms. Maybe tell us a little bit about where people can find you and work with you a little bit more about how that process works.

Zach:    Actually, I do have a website. It's zmoore.com. I haven't written on there in several years, but you can find my contact information on there, or some of my old material if you want to read some of my stuff. Also, I'm on the NBT site, Nourish Balance Thrive website, as part of their coaching team. I am on the Ketogains website as part of their coaching team.

    Really, if there's just a certain outlet that more interests you, you can find me, Precision Nutrition as well. I don't have any contact information there. We only run coaching programs. I just start in January, and I coach through December. Yeah, you can't really contact me through there, but that is one option. You can just email me as well, zach@zmoore.com. We can put that in the show notes as well.

Tommy:    Thanks so much for your time, Zach. I know people will, in the future, on the podcast, get to hear a lot more from you which is fabulous. They get to learn about you, and you can teach us even more about how to get big and strong and ripped. So, thanks for your time and we'll speak to you soon.

Zach:    All right, thanks, Tommy.

[0:49:09]    End of Audio

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