Body Fat Percentage: Bio Markers of Aging Series

obese-fat-lossWhat weighs more? Fat or muscle? That’s a question I’ve asked my audience at times when doing a guest speaking gig. You’d be amazed at the answers I get! Most times the answer is that muscle weighs more because it’s more dense than fat. A true statement but not the right one.

What I’m looking for in order to illustrate my point is that they weigh the same, if they are indeed the same weight! A pound of muscle weighs exactly the same as a pound of fat. One just takes up a little more space than the other. But, even if fat did take up a little more space, it just doesn’t look as pretty as muscle!

This article/blog is dedicated to the 10 bio markers of aging (see list below). In the last installment, we took a look at Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) in regards to the relationship it plays in our bio markers of aging series. We’ll now look at our forth bio marker to aging: Body Fat Percentage or BFP.

What is a healthy body fat percentage for men and women?

Figure 1. Body Fat Percentage Chart

body fat chart





What are the benefits to having a healthy body fat percentage?

The ratio of your lean muscle tissue versus fat mass is perhaps the most misunderstood concept in a successful weight management program. Muscle tissue compared to fat is metabolically active. Those who are able to maintain healthy BFP’s will burn more calories at rest versus those who have higher BFP’s. The breakdown and synthesis of muscle protein is the principle reason for the energy expenditure when muscle is at rest.¹

Total energy expenditure is the sum of the calories you burn at rest (resting energy expenditure or REE, the energy you burn eating food, as well as the energy you burn when active). Most of us get too caught up in how many calories a certain activity or exercise will burn, or that the number of calories burned using a particular type of exercise machine is the REAL secret. The real secret in fact is how many calories you’re burning the other 23 hours of the day! Here is a short list of some of the benefits to having a healthy body fat percentage…

  • Decreased risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Decreased risk of metabolic disease
  • Decreased risk of various cancers
  • Decreased risk of sleep Apnea
  • Decreased risk of developing osteoarthritis
  • Decreased risk of gallbladder disease
  • Decreased risk of stroke
  • Not to mention you’ll feel and look better!

What are the negative aspects of having an unhealthy body fat percentage?

Refer to all the benefits (above) of having an acceptable body fat percentage and replace the word “decreased” with “increased”.  I won’t elaborate much more about that. Thus, if you’re  motivated to make healthier lifestyle changes by avoiding the negative aspects, so be it. It’s a real downer.

What methods are used to calculate body fat percentage?

For many years, hydro-static weighing (under water) was considered the “gold standard” to calculate BFP because of it’s very accurate results. However, most of us don’t have the equipment to use it, it’s a little more costly, and who wants to be dunked under water several times while breathing all the air out of your lungs to get that result? Other newer methods like X-rays, body plethysmography, and MRI’s are great but again, it’s costly and you have to jump through other hoops to have it done.

Bio-impedance or Bio-electrical impedance, using electrical current, is also another method of obtaining BFP. A higher than normal BFP will be detected if the subject is dehydrated. This is because the level of water and electrolytes both positively affect the small current of electricity used with this method.

At Mitchell Fitness Systems, we’ve always had great success using skin-fold calipers using a simple three site formula to come up with a result (a seven site test is more accurate but not by a whole lot!) If the customer is too obese or doesn’t prefer caliper testing, we’ll simply do circumference measures on a few body parts (waist, hips, thigh, etc) or as a last resort, use BMI or Body Mass Index.

There are numerous methods for calculating BFP. Keep in mind that whatever method you choose; stick with that method when comparing results from one test to the other. You cannot compare tests from different methods because each method has it’s own test reliability result. More importantly, the result from one test to the next, using the same method, is far more important than the accuracy of the method you choose.

What is the difference between using BMI and other methods to calculate BFP?

Because it’s hard to measure numerous populations using more accurate methods of testing body fat percentage, obesity is generally measured using BMI (rating number given by calculating height and weight). Our government, epidemiological researchers, and insurance company’s use this method, for this very reason and also because it’s simple and has no cost.

The problem with BMI is that it may only tell part of the story. To illustrate my point, I’m 6′ 1″ tall and I weight 234 pounds. That puts me in the “Obese” range (see figure 2 below). However, I currently have a 12% body fat percentage (see figure 1 above). That would be considered a classification of “Athletes”. So, BMI is not a good way to measure those who are more fit and athletic. BFP testing trumps BMI in many regards to a determination of health.

Figure 2. Adult BMI Rating and Status Chart






What can you do to move toward a healthier body fat percentage?

Get off the couch and move your butt! That’s a start! Begin to form healthy habits of a regular exercise program including a good basic strength training program at least 2 to 3 days weekly. Increasing, or at least maintaining, muscle mass as you age is crucial. Also, find activities that you enjoy, like biking, jogging, or hiking, and do it regularly! Find ways to increase, not decrease, daily activity levels, and you’ll be well on your way to a happier healthier life!

The fuel you put into your body (quality) as well as the amount (quantity) is important to lowering your BFP. When you eat (timing), would be another good habit to cultivate, but only when the habit of quality and quantity is solidly in your daily routine. Currently, at Mitchell Fitness Systems, we use the Precision Nutrition system with great results and like it because of it’s healthy aspects and simplicity.

Since stress is another cause of higher body fat levels, getting involved in things that promote lower stress in your life is a great idea. This can include exercise like yoga or other stretching type activities. If you suffer as many do with emotional pain, getting involved in a good 12 Step Program like AA or Celebrate Recovery is a wise idea.

How much time will it take to reach my goal of being in the healthy body fat percentage range?

Picture yourself one year from now. You can either continue to sit around and eat unhealthy or you can begin to incorporate healthy exercise and nutritious habits to make some great changes in your life. One year will pass regardless of the choice you make. What sounds better to you; what you have now or a healthier and fitter you? It’s amazing how much progress a person can accomplish with very little time put into a well rounded exercise program. Everyone has 168 hours in a week. If you spent just three hours weekly exercising, that would be under two percent of your week! A great return on your time investment (ROI) to say the least!

Let’s talk about what happens as we age in regards to the amount of muscle mass we lose and the amount of fat we gain and how this effects the aging process.

Sarcopenia, a degenerative condition pertaining to a loss of muscle mass from aging or inactivity, is preventable and reversible to some extent. When we were younger, we were more active and used our bodies more. For men, the average BFP at age 25 is around 18%. In contrast, when a man reaches the age of 65, the average BFP is 38%. For women, the average BFP at age 25 is around 25%. In contrast, when a woman reaches the age of 65, the average BFP is 43%.²

So, why does this happen? As stated, when young we used our bodies more because we were more active. Playing sports or participating in other physical activities regularly kept our BFP at a healthy classification. I’m almost certain you may even remember eating way more when you were younger too and if you were active, staying pretty fit!

As we aged, we became less active and maybe ceased sports activities as well. The response to this decrease in activity was also a decrease in lean muscle mass. You may even be eating less than you used to! Remember, strong muscles (over 600) lead to strong bones (over 200): And that leads to healthier guts (heart, lungs, digestion, etc.).

Next month, we’ll look at the 5th bio-marker to aging: Aerobic Capacity and it’s effects on your cardiovascular (heart and venous) and pulmonary (lungs) systems.

10 Bio-markers of Aging

1. Muscle Mass

2. Strength

3. Metabolic Rate

4. Body Fat Percentage

5. Aerobic Capacity

6. Blood Sugar Tolerance

7. Cholesterol/HDL Ratio

8. Blood Pressure

9. Bone Density

10. Temperature Regulation

¹ Wolfe, R.R., The Underappreciated Role of Muscle in Health and Disease, The Am. Jrnl. of Cln. Nutr., 2006;84:475-82

² Evans, W., PH.D. and Rosenberg, I.H., M.D., Biomarkers: The 10 Determinants of Aging You Can Control, pgs. 53, Biomarker 4: Your Body Fat Percentage, Simon & Schuster, 1991.

Trent Mitchell, M.S., C.S.C.S., is the owner of Mitchell Fitness Systems, Inc. in Torrance, CA. To reach him for guest speaking engagements of for personal training services, call 310-961-2610, email, or go to and click on the link “Guest Speaking” under the “Services” link.

Basal Metabolic Rate: Bio Markers of Aging Series

fat guy in chair

In the first blog of our Bio Markers of Aging Series we took a look at Muscle Mass and Strength. In particular, how sustaining or increasing muscle mass as we age is literally the “fountain of youth” as we know it. Increasing and or sustaining precious muscle equals increased ability and turns back the biological clock like nothing else!

An increase in muscle mass elicits an increase in Basal Metabolic Rate or BMR; and that’s a very good thing! It’s not necessarily how many calories you’ll burn with exercise and activity that promote consistent body weight management; but rather, how many calories you’ll burn while at rest. This “at rest” metabolism is referred to as basal metabolism.

Metabolism refers to the chemical (metabolites) processes that both build up (anabolic and endergonic) or tear down (catabolic and exergonic) tissue, thereby either taking-up energy or releasing energy respectively.

So, BMR is simply the rate at which your body burns energy at rest. As we age, muscle mass declines at predictable rates (-2% per decade after age 20) if exercise and activity is not sufficient. Even when exercise and activity is sustained, muscle mass will still decline as a person ages; it just happens at a much slower rate. This decline results in a lower BMR as well.

What does this slower BMR mean to you? The amount of muscle you have will require certain amounts of energy or calories to sustain it. Ever wondered why your waist line is bigger even though you may be eating far less than you did when you were younger? Your requirement for oxygen and calories declines with this reduced amount of muscle mass.

Muscle is active tissue that must have oxygen and energy in the form of calories to sustain itself. Fat tissue is super low on that type of requirement and thus, just likes to hang out in it’s Lazy Boy chair and grow larger over time. Check out the picture below comparing what a healthy, muscle loaded thigh looks like (left) compared to the other (right). Notice the heavy fat content both inside the muscle as well as outside.


What can you do to keep your BMR ramped? Basically, pick up heavy things and put them down a lot! Forgive me for another cliche, “Use it or lose it”, but it’s true! If you don’t already, get into the habit of a regular strength training program. Train using basic compound exercises (squats, hinge, rowing, pressing) at least 2-3 times weekly progressing slowly over time. For strength gains, 6-12 reps per set works best and up to three sets per exercise. That’s the basic exercise prescription; now for the toughest part!

What you eat, how much you eat, and when you eat is critical to a successful nutritional program. This article/blog will not go into detail about this because it’s specific in many ways to the individual. So, a specific “paint by the numbers” regime simply won’t work for everybody. I can’t help myself to another serving of cliches, but really like the one, “70% of abs are created in the kitchen, the other 30% in the gym.” Okay, got that out of my system.

At Mitchell Fitness Systems, we use Precision Nutrition principles to put together the best nutritional programs for our clients. Please visit Precision Nutrition for details. For the purposes of this blog, as you age, you’ll need less food (fewer calories). The amount will depend primarily on your lean body mass; so find out what you’re is and get started rolling back the years to your biological clock!

Trent Mitchell is the owner of Mitchell Fitness Systems, Inc. in Torrance, CA. With over 30 years of personal training and coaching experience, he can be contacted via email at or by phone at 310-961-2610 for personal training or guest speaking engagements.



Muscle Mass & Strength: Bio-markers of Aging Series

old woman deadlifting

In my last blog, “Why Lifting Weights Keeps You Young!”, The World Health Organization (WHO) defined the term “bio-marker” as any substance, structure, or process that can be measured in the body or its products and influence or predict the incidence of outcome of disease. (Strimbu, 2011)

This month’s blog is about the first two bio-markers, Muscle Mass & Strength. And, as with the aforementioned blog, I’ll do my best to persuade the reader to include weight lifting or strength training into their weekly fitness regime.

The take away here is to understand and know that keeping or maintaining muscle mass is key to staying young as you age.

It’s the determining factor in your ability as you reach the “golden years” of your life to execute activities of daily living (ADL) and enjoy life by being able to move around in it with ease and energy!

Some background

As you age, a condition termed Sarcopenia basically says, “hello, my name is Sarcopenia and I’d like to take about a half to one percent of your muscle mass this year and in the preceding years to come”, thank you very much!

And that’s basically what Sarcopenia is, the gradual loss of muscle mass as you age. Is the condition inevitable or can you do something about it? The answer is, yes and no!

“Poverty of flesh” is the literal meaning of the term Sarcopenia and its affects are associated with a reduction in health status and disuse of our bodies as we age.

Whether we choose to lift weights or not, the loss of precious muscle mass and strength will occur. However, choosing to lift weights will slow this process down exponentially!

Muscle strength is independently associated with functional ability in older folks. Makes sense right? If you lose strength, you lose muscle mass. It’s another way of saying, “if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.”

The type of training will directly affect the desired outcome or goal. This is in accordance to the SAID Principle: Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand.

For instance, if you want to increase or sustain your muscle strength and mass, walking and jogging may only give you a fraction of that desired goal (Klitgaard H, 1990), depending on your current fitness level when you begin your program.

Simply put, if you want to get or keep your muscle, you have to pick up heavy things and put them down over and over! That’s a cave man definition, but I’ve always liked it.

Of course, how you go about it is vital to maintaining health and preventing injuries as you pick up heavy things and put them down: Another great reason to hire a qualified strength coach or personal trainer.

There are numerous studies that confirm that losing muscle mass and strength as we age is simply not a matter of aging, but a case of disuse. Researchers, in one such study (al., 2011), found that in master athletes aged 40-81 years, that those who trained 4-5 days weekly, did not show a significant decrease in muscle mass and strength with age!

Ever noticed older folks walking? Their legs are further apart and they shuffle along. This is in response to a lack of balance, which is in response to the loss of muscle mass and strength.

Normal gait patterns are maintained and sustained by doing what you have control over, and that is a proper strength training regime, healthy diet, and sufficient rest and recuperation.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), report that one in every three adults aged 65 and older will suffer a fall each year causing moderate to severe injury. Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injury to the elderly.

This fact in and of itself is a great reason to incorporate lifting weights into your life. The good news is that you can get started at any age!

Stronger muscles sustains muscle mass and helps prevent the loss of bone density; which helps to preserve better functioning internal organs in your body. Is there better medicine than lifting heavy things and putting them down repetitively?

What to do

Sustaining or adding to one’s muscle mass is what we’re looking at here. Lifting weights doesn’t necessary affect these outcomes unless certain rules are followed.

Certain principles, like the SAID principle, must be followed in a successful and structured strength training program, such as progression, overload, reversibility, and individualization.

Exercise is (like) medicine in that if you don’t incorporate these principles, may have no effect on muscle mass or may be extremely harmful both in the short and long term.

The acronym FITT is used in exercise to properly prescribe the Frequency, Intensity, Timing and Type in order to produce the desired outcome.

It’s interesting to note that this is also how doctors prescribe medications for their patients in order to elicit the best outcome.

Let’s start with the first letter in the FITT acronym; frequency. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) advises that at least two sessions weekly and not more than four, suggesting that a three day weekly regime be followed.

The ACSM suggest that a 48 hour or two day rest period between bouts of exercise be followed to allow for proper recovery from one session to the next.

The second letter in the FITT acronym is intensity. This refers to the amount of weight being lifted as well as the number of repetitions and sets used.

The rest period between each set of an exercise as well as the rest between exercises is a part of intensity as well. The ACSM recommends intensity of weight used be in the range of 65-75% of 1RM.

1RM refers to the maximum amount of weight that can be lifted one time in a particular exercise. For instance, if you can bench press 100 pounds, it’s recommended that you use 65-75% of that weight (65-75 pounds). This applies to all other exercises as well.

It’s important to note that many strength coaches advise NOT testing for a one rep maximum effort (1RM) as it can lead to injury due to the high risk involved. Trial and error is a better way to go about it.

Start with a very light weight and perform up to 15 reps with it. If you are successful, increase the weight only 5% and continue.

As you continue to experiment, increase weights from one session to the next until you find a weight that can be lifted a maximum effort of 10 reps and stay with that weight until you can lift it for 15.

Then, continue this process. This is the progressive overload principle in action and a better way to establish safe and productive sessions.

Repetitions are often referred to as “reps”. The ACSM recommend doing between 10-15 reps per the above 65-75% intensity range. There is an inverse relationship between intensity and repetitions, e.g. as you lift heavier, reps decrease.

A “set” is the completed number of reps performed for a particular exercise. The ACSM recommends one set of each exercise at the start of a program progressing up to three over time. An average of two sets is the agreed on recommendation.

Number of exercises performed is dependent upon the type of workout regime that’s followed. For instance, if a “whole body”, two to three days weekly is followed, the ACSM recommends performing one to two exercises per body part.

Choosing exercises that effect more muscle groups as opposed to just one is also recommended. For example, choosing the bench press instead of dumbbell fly’s for chest for better strength production and time management.

The third letter in FITT is time. This refers to how long each session will last and will vary depending on the type of workout being performed as well as the intensity. The higher the intensity of the session, the less time it will take.

The fourth and last letter in FITT is type. This refers to the particular energy system being used predominately in the exercise session. Will it be strength training, aerobic, or both?

Let’s talk a bit about the number one excuse for not lifting weights or anything else for that matter. Not having enough time.

We all have 168 hours in a week. No more, no less. We fill that time up with what’s important to us! If American Idol is important, we’ll watch that for one hour. If internet surfing is important for a couple of hours daily, we’ll do that as well!

What if I told you that a 2% investment in your week is all it takes to enjoy the benefit of a healthy and fit body for the rest of your life, would you believe it and more importantly, would it motivate you to invest that time?

Since there is 168 hours in your week, we’ll assume that you’ll invest 3 hours of workout time. That’s fewer than 2% of your week! Do the math. You’ll never get that return on investment (ROI) with anything else that is more important in your life!

Final thoughts

To keep you from spending too much of your time reading blogs like this and away from your workout time, here’s a list of reason’s to invest 2% of your week picking up heavy things and putting them down…

a) Maintain or prevent loss of bone density (osteoporosis)
b) Improved blood pressure (hypertension)
c) Better regulation of insulin and blood sugar levels (diabetes)
d) Improved quality of life and ADL.
e) Increased energy.
f) Help you manage your weight.
g) Sharpen your mental focus.
h) Help you manage chronic conditions, e.g. back pain, arthritis, CAD.
i) Look and feel younger (biological age vs. chronological age)

These are just the short list of all the benefits of a solid weight lifting program. I recommend that if you’re not sure how to put your program together, you hire a certified personal trainer or coach to help you save precious time!

That’s what we do here at Mitchell Fitness Systems, Inc. in Torrance, CA. We take the guess work out of the equation and help you get on the fast track to a safe and result producing fitness program using our BODYonTRAC Fitness System.

The ball is in your court now. What you choose to do may very well determine how you’ll live the rest of your life.

Next time, we’ll continue our discussion on how weight lifting affects our next bio-marker of aging, basal metabolic rate, as we continue our bio-markers of aging series.

Trent and Vicki Mitchell are co-owners of Mitchell Fitness Systems, Inc., in Torrance, CA. They have over 30 years’ experience in helping folks achieve their health and fitness goals with proven systems, tools, and coaching. To reach Trent about speaking for your group, church, business, or organization, call 310-961-2610 or email, or fill out the request guest speaking form by CLICKING HERE.

Works Cited
al., W. e. (2011). Chronic Exercise Preserves Lean Muscle mass in Master Athletes. The Physician and Sports Medicine, 39(3), 172-178.

Klitgaard H, M. M. (1990). Function, morphology and protein expression of ageing skeletal muscle: a cross-sectional study of elderly men with different training backgrouds. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica, 140, 41-54.

Strimbu, K. T. (2011). What are Biomarkers? Curr Opin HIV AIDS: NIHPA Manuscripts.

Why Lifting Weights Keeps You Young!

Portrait Of Man At Gym

When I write, it’s with the sole purpose of persuading the reader to do something in particular: To take an action(s) in order to improve and be better. So, how can I possibly convince you to lift weights; especially those who’ve never done so or had negative experiences with it?

I decided to tackle this by going for that one thing that you and I cherish, maybe not the thirty and younger crowd, but those of us above this age. And that “thing” would be – how to stay young and youthful by lifting weights! I mean, come on!, everyone wants to be young, right?

In this and the following articles, I shall share with you just how lifting weights affects ten “bio-markers” of aging in a very positive way. If I convince you that what I say is true and illustrate proofs, would you be a little more motivated to at least try? If your answer is yes, then read on and I’ll show you how to find that illusive “fountain of youth”!
First of all, what is a “bio-marker”? And secondly, where do they come from and thirdly, who decided on these ten? In a joint project on chemical safety led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and in coordination with the United Nations and International Labor Organization, have defined bio-marker as “any substance, structure, or process that can be measured in the body or its products and influence or predict the incidence of outcome of disease.”  (What are Biomarkers?, Strimbu, K., Tavel, J., Nov. 2010)

Scientists (bio-gerontologists) use bio-markers (typically 10) to predict the functional capacity to determine the biological age of a person(s) at later stages in their lives. Another way to say this is that these bio-markers help give the truest age of a person versus their chronological age (actually age in number of years of a person) would. So, who determines which bio-markers makes it into the list?

The American Federation of Aging Research, put together four criteria that determine a bio-marker.

  1. It must predict the rate of aging. In other words, it would tell exactly where a person is in their total life span. It must be a better predictor of lifespan than chronological age.
  2. It must monitor a basic process that underlies the aging process, not the effects of disease.
  3. It must be able to be tested repeatedly without harming the person. For example, a blood test or an imaging test.
  4. It must be something that works in humans and in laboratory animals, such as mice. This is so that it can be tested in lab animals before being validated in humans.

The ‘recognized’ 10 bio-markers are…

  1. Muscle mass
  2. Strength
  3. Basal metabolic rate
  4. Body fat
  5. Aerobic capacity
  6. Blood sugar tolerance
  7. Cholesterol/HDL Ratio
  8. Blood pressure
  9. Bone density
  10. Temperature regulation

Other ‘honorable mention’ bio-markers are…

  • Gene expression
  • Telomere length
  • Sleep
  • Nutritional

Going back to my original purpose of writing this article: To inspire you to take the necessary action to begin a strength training program in order to keep yourself youthful as you age. Health care cost will be and is one of the major issues facing this country. According to the National Health Expenditure Projections, by 2020, national health spending is expected to reach $4.8 trillion and comprise 19.8 percent of GDP! Just so you can understand how bad that is, national health spending was $2.6 trillion in 2010 and comprised 3.8 percent of GDP. Ugh!

How can the above inspire you? Am I trying to depress the reader with these dismal statistics? Certainly not! It’s true that America faces some tough challenges now and in the future, but you can do something right now about NOT being a part of this situation. How? By taking charge of your own health and fitness program! I’ll teach you how to do it by investing 2% of your weekly 168 hours! Interested in that kind of return on your invested time!?

As I stated previously, I will do my best to motivate you to understand how “lifting weights” (strength training) can improve the bio-markers of aging so that you can enjoy a full and functional life that’s meant to be lived and enjoyed!

In the following series of articles, I will tell you how “lifting weights” improves these bio-markers, starting with the next article coming soon, “Muscle Mass and The Fountain of Youth”. Until then, get ready to begin your life-long journey to be healthier, fitter, and just plain better!

For more information on bio-markers…

American Federation of Aging Research (AFAR),

<font< a=””>Trent and Vicki Mitchell are co-owners of Mitchell Fitness Systems, Inc., in Torrance, CA. They have over 30 years experience in helping folks achieve their health and fitness goals with proven systems, tools, and coaching. To reach Trent about speaking for your group, church, business, or organization, call 310-961-2610 or email, or fill out the request guest speaking form by CLICKING HERE.


How to Stay Healthy When Eating Out

fatcouplesIf there was one piece of advice I could give to anyone wanting to know what to eat when eating out, I’d have to say, don’t eat out. I could wrap this article up with that and be done with it, but I know it’s not practical and surely not reasonable for most.

If you did follow my advice to not eat out, what would be your recourse? Well, here goes another gem; make your own meals and take them with you. If you’re still reading, I congratulate you, because most people would have stopped by now.
Before you discard the previous two golden nuggets, think about this first. Compare and contrast the following “a” to “b” and ask yourself which is easier and healthier?
a. Having to think about what to order at a fast food restaurant or…
b. Putting a Greek yogurt, turkey sandwich, and apple into a cooler and take it to work.
I know that it may be impractical for you to not eat out although I don’t agree with the excuse. But, if you controlled what you were eating by packing it yourself, you’d be doing two things…
1. Controlling WHAT you eat and…
2. The AMOUNT you eat.
Isn’t that the thing you’d like to do? Which is easier? Which is tougher? Each take little effort and time. It’s just that packing your own lunch or meal may be a habit you’re not used to. What if you changed this habit? What if you packed your lunch for the next 21 days and cultivated a new healthier habit? How would you feel? How would you look? Would your pants be a little looser on you?
That’s my best advice to you if you have a goal to be healthy. It’s my advice if you have fat to lose and or muscle to gain. If you must eat out, here’s my take on it.
  •  Don’t be shy about asking your server questions about the foods on the menu. Be assertive, but polite, about how you HAVE TO have your food prepared.
  • Request salad dressings (low fat) to be served on the side. You’ll still get the taste of the dressing and use far less if you dip your folk into the dressing first and then stab the “green stuff.” You won’t believe how many calories you save using this technique. By the way, that green stuff should be dark green. Iceberg lettuce, for example, may have good water content, but it has practically no nutritional value.
  • Avoid any foods that have the following words attached to them: cream, sauté or bisque.
  • Ask that the skin on poultry be removed before cooking.
  • Ask for substitutions, even if they’re not offered or on the menu (e.g. baked potato instead of French fries, green salad instead of coleslaw).
  • Request that your waiter not bring you appetizers such as chips or breads (unless it’s a small amount of whole wheat bread with real butter). Some people eat several hundred calories in appetizers before they even get their main entrée!
  • If your willpower is usually weak when you eat out, try this technique. Eat a small nutritious snack before you leave your home or office! This also works great before parties or other social activities where high fat and high sugar foods will be served.
  • Choose chicken or turkey burgers on a whole wheat bun over the regular burger and fries. Use mustard instead of mayonnaise.
  • Order baked potatoes without butter and sour cream. If you’re serious about losing fat, you’ll get used to it and actually like it better without the fat. Top with salsa or low fat cottage cheese instead.
  • “Super-Size” means “Super Fat Thighs.” Say this to yourself several times when tempted!
  • If you just can’t do without your dessert, choose fresh fruit, sherbet or sorbet. And share it!
Here are a few more suggestions on healthy eating at different types of restaurants you may frequent from time-to-time…
Italian Restaurants  
Instead of fettuccine Alfredo, eggplant or veal Parmigiana, lasagna, fried calamari or manicotti…order a healthier choice of any type of pasta with Marsala sauce, linguini with red or white clam sauce and salad with dressing served on the side (use sparingly).
Seafood Restaurants  
Instead of baked stuffed shrimp, seafood casseroles or any fried seafood…order a healthier choice of any seafood that’s grilled, steamed, blackened or broiled.
Chinese Restaurants
Instead of sweet and sour chicken or pork, moo shu pork, Kung pao chicken, and any other crispy or fried item…order a healthier choice of stir-fried vegetables, chicken or shrimp with garlic sauce, Hunan or Szechuan shrimp or chicken or tofu.
Mexican Restaurants
Instead of enchilada, Chile relleno, cheese quesadilla, taco salad, beef chimichanga, beef and cheese nachos, beef or pork burritos…order a healthier choice of chicken or vegetable fajitas, chicken or bean burrito.
American Restaurants
Instead of hamburgers, hotdogs, baby back ribs, chicken fingers, French fries, onion rings, Buffalo wings or fried mozzarella sticks (sorry, these foods make you fat)…order a healthier choice of grilled chicken or seafood, Garden Burger, grilled chicken salad with low fat dressing, baked potato with salsa, pasta with tomato based sauce and vegetables.
Breakfast Restaurants
Instead of waffles, biscuits and gravy, ham and cheese omelets, sausage or bacon…order a healthier choice of hot or cold cereal with low fat milk, Egg Beaters, egg white omelets or scrambled egg whites with turkey, oat bran or other fiber pancakes with syrup only and fresh fruit.
Note: The above is for a quick guide and not meant to be an exhaustive listing. There are many books available on how to eat healthy at any fast food restaurants. Invest in these and other books as part of your ongoing pursuit to educate yourself to a fit and healthy body.
Wow, doesn’t it make more sense now to just pack your own meal(s)? The preceding suggestions are from my book, Unlock the Five Doors to Your Best Body: A Fitness Guide for the Serious Couch Potato, available at Amazon or your favorite book distributor.
Use the Five P Principle to be successful (Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance) and as always, keep it super simple (KISS)!
Trent Mitchell is co-owner of Mitchell Fitness Systems, Inc. in Torrance, CA. he and his wife Vicki have been involved in the fitness industry for well over 30 years. Trent is the author of “How to Unlock the Five Doors to Your Best Body: A Fitness Guide for the Serious Couch Potato”, and is available for personal training services and guest speaking engagements for your club, business, organization, or church. He can be contacted at 310-961-2610 or

Focus on the Good Stuff!

  Vicki 7
We do things for two basic reasons. We move towards whatever gives us pleasure or we move away from what brings us pain in it’s many forms.

   I’ve learned so many things over the last two years. Mostly about myself. Most of them were very disturbing but opened my mind (and heart) to making some changes for the better.

Recovery does things to you and for you. It empties out old negative hurts, habits, and hang ups and it also teaches one how to replace those negative habits with good healthy habits that produce very positives outcomes in our lives.

It’s been said that those who live in the past have no future. There’s much to that statement that I agree with. However, learning from past mistakes is an invaluable lesson if we then take what we’ve learned and apply it to the present as well as the future. The spin off from this way of thinking is the common definition of insanity. That is, doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. Oh, how I’ve practiced insanity and just for your information; it doesn’t work too well.

If you’ve still reading this, you’re probably trying to figure out where I’m going. Since we are about to turn the corner on another New Year (or by the time this publishes, it will be), let’s take a close look at our past mistakes as it relates to the times we’ve tried to change our eating behaviors or maybe started an exercise program and failed (maybe on numerous occasions). After this inventory, let’s set up some positives goals and re-focus on the good stuff and stop focusing so much on the bad!

Get out the paper and pen or your Apple or PC device and lets get to work! The first thing I’d like you to do is write/type the following…

1. What diets have I tried in the past and how did it/they work out?
2. Did I lose the weight I wanted to lose?
3. Did I keep the weight off?
4. What have been the “road blocks” that prevent me from succeeding?
5. Why did I stop exercising?
6. Why am I sad, angry, or depressed? (everyone has some type of wound in their life. What is yours?)
7. If I knew I couldn’t fail, what would I like to accomplish? (I’m talking about health and fitness, but please expound this to other area’s of your life as well.)
8. Who are the friends, family, and co-workers I can count on to support me?
9. What are the top 3 things I FEAR most in life?
10. Am I usually a positive person or am I negative mostly?

If you’re willing to write/type this all out, you’ll stand a much better chance of making some huge changes for the better! Now, look at this list and study it. Do you see a pattern? Can you be honest with yourself enough to understand why your brakes stay locked down? It wasn’t until I took an honest inventory of my life with all the hurts that I’ve caused myself and others, that I finally started to really live a joyful and happy life. The reader must understand too that I’m a Christian and it is the “center” of everything I do. So, the principles that I live my life by provide a “life map” and keeps me accountable.

You don’t have to be a Christian for this exercise to work out for you but it is my hope that very soon you might! You see, because we have that “wound” somewhere in our heart, we need to find a safe place to be able to extract it and deal with it. That safe place may be with someone you trust, your church, a family member, a self help program like Alcoholics Anonymous or Celebrate Recovery. By working on these wounds (deeper issues), you’ll begin to discover and re-organize your life in healthier and more productive ways. Then and only then, will other areas of your life begin to get better. But, only if you work at it and for it.

So, get that list out again and look it over. Begin to focus on the positive aspects on it. Even if you only have one or two. Large fires are created by a single spark! Stop looking backward and watching that same old film in your head. The one titled, “How I’ve failed in Life”, and start playing that new film, “How I’ll Succeed in Life”. If you need help, my suggestion is to get a solid accountability TEAM together consisting of, but not limited to, the following list…

  • Church
  • AA, NA, SA, etc.
  • Celebrate Recovery
  • Supportive Friends, family & Co-workers
  • Health Club or Gym

   This is exactly what I’ve done and it’s made a gigantic difference! After you’ve dealt with the “wounds” in your life, begin to move towards those things that bring you joy and happiness. Replace old negative habits and behaviors with good habits. It’s worth the effort and you certainly are well worth it! Try focusing on the “good stuff” in life for the next 30 days and see what happens!

Trent Mitchell is co-owner of Mitchell Fitness Systems, Inc. in Torrance, CA. He and his wife Vicki have been involved in the fitness industry for well over 30 years. Trent is the author of “How to Unlock the Five Doors to Your Best Body”, and is available for personal training services of guest speaking engagements. He can be reached at
310-961-2610 or by email at


Functional Movement Screens Equal Healthier Athletes!

FMS pic Mick P   For as long as I can remember (and that’s been awhile), athlete’s waited in a long line for a quickie exam performed by the team physician and were cleared to participate in various sports and activities. From there, performance tests were administered to see who the real “great athletes” on the team were! These tests included those that sought to see how many pushups, sit-ups, chin-ups, how fast, how quick, how agile, how skilled, etc. You remember, right? The coaches drooling like Pavlov’s Dogs in response to the new talent they’d use to destroy rival opponents for the coming season.

That’s been the usual sequence of events previously. And this sequence to find
talent, in many cases, missed opportunities to also discover why some athletes, even the ones who tested highly, ended up injured during the season. Can injuries to athletes be avoided with the proper testing methods? Can games possibly be won or lost because of faulty testing methods? The answer is a resounding “YES.”

Dysfunctional movement patterns may cause cyclic injuries. Some of these injuries are minor and some are season ending. That’s where the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) comes in. The FMS was created by Gray Cook to identify movement pattern deficiencies that may lead to injury and lack of performance. The FMS consists of seven movements that reveal an “inside out” look of how the body moves in all three planes of motion (sagittal, frontal, transverse).

After administering the FMS to the athlete or “weekend warrior”, a corrective exercise protocol is set in motion to begin the process of re-learning new and healthier movement patterns. These new patterns of movement will keep the athlete healthy and produce  efficient movement which will equal more power, balance, speed, and agility, to name a few benefits. Does this sound like something your team may be interested in?

To give you an analogy, suppose you continue to open and close a door with a faulty working hinge. Chances are after a period of time, that door will either get stuck into position or literally break off the hinge completely, leading to the cost of replacing that door. How much time and money when you’re dealing with an athlete who demonstrates dysfunctional movement patterns? If you load this athlete with a weighted barbell or dumbbells, you have a recipe for possible injury! Replace the hinge, keep the door for a long time! Use FMS, keep your athletes performing at the top of their game!

At Mitchell Fitness Systems, you’ll begin with a thorough initial “Discovery Phase” to determine the athletes medical and exercise history as well as numerous other factors that will give us a complete profile. Next, a full body “Diagnostic Phase” to administer the FMS to diagnose any dysfunctional movement patterns in order to prescribe the best corrective exercise strategies possible. This prescribed plan is called the “Development Phase” that’s specifically designed with the athletes needs and goals in mind.

Many major college and professional teams have implemented the FMS into their programs. If we can begin to implement the FMS early at the High School level, there’s no telling how many unnecessary injuries can be avoided. The goal is to help athletes accelerate and decelerate in all three planes of motion, at various speeds without dysfunctional stress to joints and soft tissue. Keeping athletes healthy throughout the year is one thing, but keeping them healthy during the crucial months of the season when they’re needed, is quite another! Give us a call at 310-961-2610 or email us at for a quote on getting a FMS completed or for your team!

Trent Mitchell, MS, CSCS, is the co-owner of Mitchell Fitness Systems, Inc. in Torrance, CA., and author of “How to Unlock the Five Doors to Your Best Body: A Fitness Guide for the Serious Couch Potato”, is available for personal training and guest speaking engagements. To contact, call 310-961-2610 or email at


Do You Deserve Your Best Body?

BESTBODY_cover (1)

For over thirty years now I’ve consulted with many folks who’ve
interviewed me to be their fitness coach. Little did they know, I too was doing my own “interview” to see if they and I were a good fit for each other. It goes without saying that on many occasions I’ve been wrong about the character of many clients who’ve gone on to be healthy and fit under my instruction. Integrity is hard to identify until you spend a little time with someone, although my wife can discern in milliseconds.

However, when I ask them why they want whatever their goal is, it becomes very apparent that they may have never considered it before, the WHY that is. Digging deeper into their WHY,  I soon recognize how vague or even non-existent it really is. But it is a tell-tell sign of a central road-block that has stopped them from reaching their goals. That road-block is that they don’t truly feel they deserve what they desire.

My new book, Unlock the Five Doors to Your Best Body-A Fitness Guide For the Serious Couch Potato, addresses this lack of someone not really believing they truly deserve the gift of health and fitness. They seem to sabotage numerous attempts at starting either a fitness program, a healthy eating regime, or both. They may go through a desire to change and may even begin to take initial action, but fizzle out at the first road-block they come to.

To order, CLICK HERE.

You MUST make a firm decision to change yourself for the better. Beginning anything worthy without unlocking this most important door will only lead to another aborted attempt to obtain health and fitness. There are four main reasons people don’t achieve this worthy pursuit…

  1. They don’t truly value their health
  2. They don’t really understand how their body functions
  3. They don’t have a tried and true plan or system to follow
  4. They don’t have accountability

Honestly, more people value their car more than their body. They know more about how their car works than their body, and that’s usually very little! They know that they must put gas in the tank, change the oil, and render other services to their car but then proceed to put garbage in the only body God gave them! You can replace your car. You can’t get a new body on this earth anyway. Ponder that thought for a minute or two!

I’ve written this book for a few reasons, some of them include…

  • For business promotion of Mitchell Fitness Systems, Inc.
  • To help those who’ve tried before to make a positive change but failed in previous attempts.
  • To raise money for one of our charity organizations, Teen Challenge.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that “Obesity and the health problems that accompany obesity are the most serious health issue we currently face as Americans.” Other nations intent on our destruction may only have to wait it out until we destroy ourselves. And, they may not have to wait too long. Currently, over two-thirds of our population is categorized as over-weight and one-third is obese! Clearly, we have lots of work to do and we need some bright minds to come together to make a difference…fast.

To order, CLICK HERE.

With such a huge task ahead of us, where do we start? I believe the answer lies in our homes, with families, in local communities. Instead of looking at the national epidemic, let’s look right where we’re at. Currently, Mitchell Fitness offers The TakeDown Challenge (TDC) three times yearly. The TDC is a 28 day nutritional system that is not a “quick-fix”, but rather a “quick-start” program designed to teach healthy eating habits and concepts. In my humble opinion, it’s the best on the market. Everyone should sign up for this program. It’s just another way we are doing something locally about this situation.

In the next several months, we’ll be debuting our “YOUR BEST BODY” campaign for those who desperately need to make healthy changes to their life. There will be more details as it comes together. But for now, buy my book and really READ IT!! Buy them as a gift to give your friends, neighbors and co-workers. When you give someone a healthy gift, you may just hear from them later on telling you that it was because of your generosity, they have finally changed their life for the better! And, it’s also a great way to help us raise money (50% of all book sales) and awareness for our charity partner, the LA County Teen Challenge, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping young folks realize their potential in life.

To order “How to Unlock the Five Doors to Your Best Body – A Guide for the Serious Couch Potato“, CLICK HERE or go to today.

Trent Mitchell, MS, CSCS can be reached at 310-325-8637 or by email at for guest speaking engagements and personal training services.

Can You Really Train Your Brain to be Better?

brainIn the first chapter in my book (available soon), Unlock the Five Doors to Your Best Body, I describe how one should know and understand what they are all about values, principals, and belief wise, in order to make a firm decision to get fit. Why would you need to know this about yourself in order to be fit? It’s the cornerstone of your resolve to stay in the game when the game gets tough. It does and it will.

However, this section is about what you can do to make your brain healthier. You have to also train your brain. Not with dumbbells and barbells necessarily, but with other tools that are also suitable for the job. Here’s a short list of such tools…

  • word games
  • eating healthy foods
  • puzzles
  • reading
  • learn how to play a musical instrument
  • writing
  • strength training
  • aerobic training
  • stretching
  • public speaking
  • educational
  • staying hydrated
  • building or constructing things

What is the outcome of using some of the above tools to exercise that brain of ours? It helps to link neural synapses to memory banks, keeping them ready for immediate use for one. I know it never happens to you, but have you ever forgot someone’s name, even though you’ve known them for years? My personal technique is going through the ABC’s thinking of names while picturing their face in my mind until I come up with it. The problem with this technique is that my wife is standing there waiting to be introduced to the person in question while both parties are looking at me like I’m from Mars.

Another benefit of using the tools listed above on a regular basis is that it helps to keep your thoughts organized and clear. Clarity is something that us men from Mars struggle with, right girls? Have you seen the Klondike ice cream bar commercial,“Five Seconds to Glory”, where the man sitting on the couch next to his wife is challenged to pay attention for a mere five seconds to his wife in order to win the delicious treat? As funny as this commercial is, it’s just about true for most men! Exercising your brain can help you to pay attention guys, maybe for more than five seconds!

In her book, “The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain”, Barbara Strauch describes how exercise and activity can actually generate new brain cells, no matter what your age. This finding, validated by many recent scientific studies, negates previous theory that the brain has a fixed number of brain cells that diminish as we age. So, if exercise can generate new brain cells, what causes us to lose them?

Stress is a normal response to many of life’s situations. It’s handy when you need to avoid getting run over by a speeding car while in a cross walk or running from a very angry dog to safety. It’s even normal to experience the stresses of every day events we come across, like having to give a speech or knowing you have bills that are due when there’s been more month than money. These are acute responses to stress that produce cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands that nestle next to your kidneys.

Cortisol is not bad like all the previous information you might have read. It’s the constant release of this hormone that’s not so great. The chronic state of constant stresses that produce cortisol is the culprit here. A little is a good thing, a lot is not so hot. Chronic stress harms your brain, leads to premature aging, sickness and mental health problems. Daniel Amen, M.D., in his book, “Change Your Brain Change Your Body”, offers this 16 point list of things you can do to help you manage your stress. This list is worthy of close inspection and study. I highly recommend Dr. Amen’s book as it’s one of my all time favorites.

  1. Meditate or pray on a regular basis
  2. Take a yoga class
  3. Learn to delegate
  4. Practice gratitude
  5. Get enough sleep
  6. Get moving
  7. Learn to warm your hands using only your mind
  8. Practice diaphragmatic breathing
  9. Listen to soothing music
  10. Surround yourself with the sweet smell of lavender
  11. Rehearse or practice situations that cause stress
  12. Live in the present
  13. Practice self-hypnosis
  14. Avoid substances that harm your brain
  15. Laugh more
  16. Seek help for chronic stress

CLICK HERE to watch a great interview between Dr. Mercola and Dr. Amen about the latest discoveries on how our brain can literally repair and reorganize itself (plasticity). This is a contrary  paradigm that once damage occurs to the brain, it is lost forever.

For chronic stress relief, I recommend a connection to a higher power. Something greater than yourself. Can you possibly control everything life throws your way? We are limited in what we can control and those things that seem in our control are outside the control of many. Which brings me right back to my point; connecting to a higher power. My personal choice as a Christian is my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To you, it could be your own spiritual higher power. The point is, you can’t possibly control everything and all the worry in the world won’t be healthy to an optimum functioning brain.

To sum up, there are two categories discussed here. Having the tools handy for use in order to train or exercise your brain to function at it’s best and what you can do if you suffer from chronic stress. The former being things you can incorporate immediately to help you think clearly and stay sharp. The latter being something for you to contemplate to help relieve you of the chronic stressors of life. Both very important for your overall health and well being.

The lesson I’ve learned about healthy brain functioning is this. You must change your mind from harmful habits to good habits for a good outcome. Either is simple to do, but not easy in many cases. Be patient, choose a few tools at a time and work on using them to help you control stress and create reasonable happiness in your life right now.

I know what many would do for a Klondike Bar but, what would you do for peace of mind?

Trent Mitchell, MS, CSCS, along with his wife Vicki, own and operate Mitchell Fitness Systems, Inc. in Torrance, CA. Call (310) 325-8637 to inquire about personal training or speaking engagements for your club, business, or organization.




How Having a Team Can Make You Successful

teamworkPlaying sports has always been a passion of mine. Over my life,
I’ve participated and played many including basketball, baseball, track & field, golf, tennis, bodybuilding (this one could be debated as to being a sport), as well as football up through my collegiate career. The list has a few commonalities associated with it but the one I’d like to discuss is “Teamwork”. Yes, even bodybuilding includes a team!

Can you imagine Eli Manning (pro quarterback of the NY Giants) running out onto the field alone? Going up to the line of scrimmage (imaginary line) while barking out commands. This is a funny visual right? I mean, who would snap the ball to him? Who would he hand the ball to? Who would he pass to? The Chicago Bears have 11 players chomping at the bit to take Eli’s head off! That wouldn’t be a pretty sight now would it? Unless your a Bear fan of course.

Here’s my point. We all should have a team mentality, not only while playing sports, but also in every aspect of our lives. Do you think you accomplish and complete things entirely alone? It’s true that the fortitude, desire, hard work, and no-quit mentality comes from you! However, you need other people who have talents and resources to get things done. You need a team to succeed.  So, the smart thing to do would be to surround yourself with these people! Eli has some pretty big boys protecting him so he can do his job.

Let’s say you’ve decided not to be a couch potato anymore and are finally ready to get fit. How can you set yourself up for success? One way is to form your own team! That’s right, think of friends, family members, and co-workers who you can recruit to support you in your endeavor to be fit. Compile at least five names and also your personal physician’s name to be on your team. What could putting your team together for this reason have anything to do with how successful you are? Here are a few reasons…

  • support (when things get tough)
  • encouragement
  • accountability
  • focus and clarity
  • short and long term health care focus

These are but a few of the positive factors involved with constructing your winning team. Why do you thinkThe Biggest Loser is so successful? It has many accountability factors built into the program. Millions of viewers, family and friends, coaches, prizes, etc. all go into the total package of their winning teams! When you confess to your “team” what your intentions are, you place a little pressure on yourself to accomplish your goals.

We use a program developed by my friends at NPE, Inc. in Orlando Florida (an INC.500 multiple award winning business) called “ABS” or Accountability Bubble Support System. In this system, we suggest that our clients formulate their accountability team in order to gain the support and encouragement they’ll need in order to reach goals during their fitness journey. It also helps us to grow Mitchell Fitness Systems because these team players know we are doing something very special and they too want in on it!

Weather you’re building a house, playing a sport, getting a business started, or finally getting off that couch and starting an exercise program, you need a team to make it happen! Recruit your team now and enlist their help and support to keep you on track and focused throughout your fitness journey!

The following is a short list of studies done to illustrate how forming support groups increases ones chance for success…

“Study participants experience 100% better weight loss and fitness results, dropping pounds faster and keeping them off longer, when they teamed up with a buddy with whom they have an existing relationship.” – Rena Wing, PhD behavioral scientist, Brown University, Founder, National Weight Control Registry

“Study participants reported significantly greater weight loss, health and fitness results when they had the support of family and friends.” – Powers, T.A., Koestner, R., & Gorin, A.A. (2008). Families, Systems, & Health, 26(4), 404-416.

“Study participants who actively enlisted the social support of 3 or more friends experienced 176% greater long term success with their exercise and nutrition program than those who tried to do it on their own.” – Wing, R.R., & Jeffery, R.W.(1999). Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 67(1), 132-138.

“Building a social support network can be THE determining factor (to your fitness and weight loss success). You need people who will hold you to your agreements.” – St. John, B. (2003). Build a Support System. Shape Magazine, 22(6), 28.

“The participant’s personal network provides invaluable social support for them in four ways: (1) it allows for empathy; (2) it ensures accountability to others; (3) it provides venting and advice seeking; and (4) it shares validation of the experience.” – Sanford, A. (2010). Communication Studies, 61(5), 567-584.

Trent Mitchell, M.S., C.S.C.S., and his business partner and wife Vicki can be reached at Mitchell Fitness Systems, Inc. 310-325-8637 for speaking engagements to your club or organization or for personal training services.