“There’s no better way to start the day than with a nutritious breakfast” I thought to myself. So, time to set to it. Right, let’s get some carbs in. They keep me fuller, for longer (according to that Shreddies advert from the 90’s), so let’s have a couple of Weetabix, that’ll do it. Although, Weetabix on it’s own is a bit bland, so better add a some sugar. I’ll whack in a few rounds of toast too, but let’s keep it healthy, so let’s go wholemeal bread with some low fat olive spread. Next, let’s get one of my five a day in, some orange juice will see to that. That’s breakfast dealt with, so-long, hunger.
10am arrives…and so does the hunger. Let’s nail a protein shake, they love it in the office when I’m sat at my desk making a shake, I’m fairly certain it’ll get me promoted one day.
12pm = Lunchtime. Let’s reward my hard work so far today with a big baguette.
2.30pm. Hungry, again. I’ll have a bit of fruit, to keep my energy up, and maybe just one choccy digestive for pudding. There’s plenty of those to go around.
5pm rolls around and it’s time to hit the gym. Where the hell is my energy?! Better grab some N.O. Xplode, or some other chemically packed concoction to get me started…
Thankfully that was almost two years ago, and I’ve improved things a crazy amount since then. I’ve been going to the gym for a number of years, but never really felt I was getting the rewards for the effort I was expanding. My training routine wasn’t the best, but it certainly wasn’t awful. Plenty of compound lifts in there, with some HIIT training, so I thought it was time to pay more attention to what I was eating.
It turns out that there’s more to the internet than Facebook, Sky Sports and erm…”private browsing.” There’s SO much information available, which on one hand is great. The downside to all this free information is that there’s just too much. I don’t know about you, but I found it is a bit of a minefield, especially when you realise that just because you eat like Wolverine, doesn’t mean you’ll become Wolverine. Cheers for getting my hopes up, internet.
Thankfully I found an AWESOME page on Twitter and Facebook, that belonged to one Alex Ferentinos. After a few hours reading his pages and articles, it didn’t take me long to figure out where I was going wrong. The best part? There was so much FREE information, and it was tangible. Simple steps that I could apply, to see how my body reacts. Not only does he put out all this information for FREE (did I mention it’s FREE yet?), but he also runs seminars around the country, still works privately one-to-one with a handful of clients, writes for fitness and health magazines, and a hell of a lot more, including possibly being a superhero.
I recently got in touch with Alex, firstly to thank him for the wealth of information he makes available for FREE to the masses, but secondly to see if he had any time to squeeze in some questions that I wanted to put to him. I’m pleased to say that Alex got back in touch pretty damn quickly. Good job too right? Just think of the time you’d have just spent reading all of this, only for me to basically say “he didn’t reply, thanks for reading.”
So, over to the interview. Enjoy!
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself, and your journey to get you to where you are today?
I was a hyperactive child growing up in a Mediterranean family, so I was thrown into a lot of crafts and sports to keep me entertained and out of trouble with a lot of family cooking being the centre of all social gatherings. From that I became a good swimmer who loved cooking. I went to a military school where a lot of sports were encouraged, and became a civil servant. This was not up my street though as it didn’t see me becoming the next 007, so I studied to become a personal trainer and nutritionist in 2004 and have offered services in an online capacity since, with a thirst for further knowledge, reading as many books and attending as many talks as possible. In that time I was playing rugby and studying too so I will be able to combine nutrition with strength and conditioning coaching in the near future. For now I’m known as the guy who streamlines people’s nutrition, making everything simple and delicious. I’ve laid some really good foundations for the future in studies and business but still have a lot to do, develop and offer.
How has 2014 been for you so far, and what’s on the agenda for later this year?
I’m not too fussed about the days on the calendar as it were, I just work continually to better myself and make things happen, so nothing’s planned because it’s 2014 but I will continue to put on nutrition talks as well as looking to start holding training camps and cookery days. I also work with a small number of one to one clientele. I have a lot planned like more collaborations with top people and more online content, I’ve found I enjoy the public speaking more than anything, as well as helping rugby players, so whilst I don’t want to pigeonhole myself, they’re the two things I enjoy the most.
You’ve clearly been extremely busy over the last 18 months, and you’ve presented to more than a thousand people at your seminars. Who would you say the seminars appeal to?
Somewhat, though I had a breakdown that took a lot to try to bounce back from and stay on top of, but things are on the up now. The talks are written in order to be clear to everybody…if people wanted an academic conference they’d go to one, so I don’t use jargon or technical terms without thorough explanation if I have to at all. I’ve had athletes and coaches in elite level sports, trainers, regular members of the public and complete beginners young and old attend, all giving good reviews of how clear and practical the information is.
What would you say are the two most common nutrition questions you get asked?
Usually people want to know much they should eat either as total calories or grams of a macronutrient, and questions regarding popular dietary approaches/fads. Without a consultation and analysis and subsequent brainstorming, it’s not really clear what the answer is, though I will have an idea of how much based on the optimal ranges but you can’t just take somebody from nowhere near that immediately, as it has to fit their appetite and schedule, with gradual changes. A lot ask me about fasting too, and I feel people need to learn how to source, shop, cook, and eat well first, hence why I put on talks so I can ensure people grasp and apply good principles, I seem to be doing a pretty good job on that front from the feedback.
We’ve all been duped by bro-science when starting out at the gym (and by “we” I mean “I”) – Which are the main training mistakes you see people making when starting out?
Poor exercise technique without anatomical awareness or grasp of each lifts safe and optimal range of motion, as well as false ideas like high reps burn more fat…really, learning optimal exercise technique and having that slide into a program that develops strength, size and joint stability, whilst improving performance and physique is really the key. A lot also like to find out all the isolation lifts and hammer every single muscle with all the isolation lifts you can do when compound lifts give you much more bang for your buck, Jim Wendler terms that “training economy” where the lifts with greatest benefit get prioritised and utilised. Learning and executing perfect technique in a manner that is both safe for the joints and simultaneously works the muscles optimally is key. Variables like load, tempo, volume, and frequency are manipulated to reach the desired goals as they need to be different for different goals. I’d recommend Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength 3rd Ed. for people to lift properly, safely and efficiently. There’s obviously much more to learn beyond this book, but it’s comprehensive and a great place to start.
I’m sure you hear a lot of people say “I don’t have time to cook”, which often means “I can’t be bothered to cook” or the daily routine needs to be addressed. What’s your favourite go-to quick, easy and nutritious meal?
Generally lack of direction and laziness, yes. Lots of solutions exist such as mail order shopping for ingredients and willingness to prepare meals for the week ahead. I’m always recommending slow cookers, or crock pots as my American clients call them. Some pretty amazing dishes can be made from just stock, vegetables, tough cuts of meat, herbs, spices and some seasoning with minimal effort besides chopping. Certain kitchen gadgets also make life much easier like a blender, rice cooker, burger press, chopper, mandolin slicer and things of that nature. Also having plenty of clip lock boxes to put servings of these meals and side dishes in to freeze or take out with you helps.
Just because I’ve never seen you both in the same room…are you actually Superman?
A lot of people say this actually, though he tweeted at me recently though some people speculated it’s just a second account of mine, I was worried that people would realise I just wear glasses because I have poor eyesight.
HUGE thanks to Alex for taking the time out to help me with this interview. If you want to find out more, get following Alex on his social media channels. You’ll find the links below: