Category Archives: Diet

Easy High Protein Recipes

Hey everyone!


With summer rolling around, I thought I would share with you all a few fairly easy high protein foods that I like to cook when I meal prep.


  1. Spicy Salsa Chicken- Dense in protein, low in fat, and is a good mix up if you are tired of eating plain grilled chicken.

Ingredients- 1-2 cans/glasses of salsa. 1 Franks hot sauce, salt and pepper. 1 package of chicken breast

  1. Get a crock pot and throw in the pack of raw chicken breast.
  2. Season it as you would like while it is in crock pot.
  3. Dump all the salsa into the crock pot and ensure all the chicken is covered.
  4. Add as much Franks hot sauce as you would like
  5. Cook on low heat for 8 hours




  1. Grass Fed Steak- Everyone loves a good steak. High in protein but moderately high in fat.

Ingredients- Grass Fed Steak, Goya Adobo Seasoning, Olive Oil

  1. Preheat oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Season steak on both sides with adobo seasoning and tenderize by beating the steak
  3. Heat up Olive oil on pan on high
  4. Once pan has heated with the olive oil, place steaks on pan for 30-45s on each side. This is done to get a nice pan sear on each side of the steak
  5. After each side of all steaks are seared, throw them onto a baking sheet and cook for 6-8 minutes in the oven. Check to see if your steak is done by using a thermometer or by cutting into it. May need to throw steaks back in if they are too rare for your liking!


  1. Ground Turkey and Grass Fed Beef Burgers- High in protein but moderately high in fat. Can substitute for all ground turkey instead of ground beef to lower fat content.

Ingredients- 2 lbs of 93-7 Ground Turkey (or leaner), 1 lb of 80-20 ground beef, worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper, Olive oil

  1. Combine ground beef and ground turkey together in a bowl. Mix together for a few minutes to get a solid mixture of the two meats.
  2. Add 3 T of Worcestershire sauce along with desired amount of salt and pepper to the ground turkey and ground beef. Mix well again.
  3. Preheat olive oil in pan on medium-high
  4. Make 12 patties with the 3 lbs of raw meat by rolling meat into balls and forming them to make a burger size. I use a pampered chef burger press.
  5. Once pan is hot, throw the patties onto the pan and cook for 4 minutes on each side on medium high heat. The trick is to only flip the burger ONCE.
  6. Now you have fairly high protein burger patties. Feel free to add bread or lettuce as a bun and whatever condiments you would like!


If you end up using any of these small recipes then please let me know! I think they are all pretty tasty but the Salsa Hot Chicken is probably the easiest to make!



Keto Diet: What is it and is it effective?

The keto diet is a relatively new fad diet that has been circling around the fitness community for years now. However, I would not say it is short lived because it is still quite popular due its popularity of aiding people in weight loss. For those that do not know, the keto diet is a diet that consists of only fat and proteins with minimal or zero carbohydrates. In short, this means that the person who is on the diet does not ingest sugar, bread, pasta, rice, and other carbohydrates of that nature. Instead, they often will tend to eat more meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products, vegetables, or high fat vegetables such as avocados.


I will admit that this diet can be effective in losing weight but is it the right choice for you? In my opinion, every person should eat all 3 macronutrients that we have available to us. This means a person should be eating carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. The reason I believe this is because each macronutrient has a specific function in our body. Carbohydrates provide us with energy that is used in our bodily functions and daily activity. Protein aids our bodies in repairing and building tissues that is not just limited to muscle. Lastly, fats help regulate our bodies hormones and can also provide energy. Now when we put our bodies through a keto diet, we are eliminating a whole macronutrient and some of its functions. Yes, fats can be an energy source so in theory fats would take over as the primary energy source instead of carbohydrates but is it the most efficient?


This creates a debate that divides the fitness community. Is keto healthy for the average person with the elimination of an entire macronutrient? Researchers on both sides can argue for both points with validity for both but in my own educated opinion, I think there is a better way to lose weight. This can be done without eliminating carbohydrates, losing weight gradually or slowly on a week-by-week reduction in calories, and proper exercise. Our bodies were intended to use all 3 macronutrients. The keto diet eliminates carbohydrates which is why I think there are better ways to lose some lbs.



Food Rules

Throughout my career I have been lucky to spend tome with some of the best in the nutrition and diet world. I have broken bread with Dr John Berardi and Michael Pollan. Both of these men had a profound influence on how I eat and the idea I will share with you today. Michael Pollan has a simple method for eating.


“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Michael Pollan


If you followed those three simple rules you’d probably be healthier than you are right now. On the other hand Dr John Berardi has written books about his different rules and methods. I have devised my own simple plan that is based in many ways on the lessons I have learned from these two.


  1. Figure out how many eating opportunities you have in a week. If you eat 4 times a day 7 days a week that is 28 opportunities.
  2. Create a scoring system. You could use an excel graph with 28 squares or even use notes in your phone. It doesn’t matter, just track it someway.
  3. Mark an X in meals that don’t pass the simple test (I am about to show you), Mark a checkmark when you do pass the test.
  4. Follow this simple test. Does your meal have protein, fruit and or veggies, and water. If so then it passes, if not it fails.
  5. At the end of the week score yourself. Maybe you hit 14 out of 28 meals. Then you have a starting point, aim for 15 next week.


A few notes about this is, be honest with yourself as you must know where you are starting. Also, don’t fret over where you are now. The only way us up, no human would score perfect (maybe a bodybuilder preparing for a show), so give yourself a break and just try to do better.


Try this out and as with any goal make slow steady progress.



!A Comer Con Dahveed!

One of my biggest pet peeves in the fitness industry is the notion that your diet has to consist of rice and bland chicken. Why do so many people think that you have to subject yourself to this torture of eating bland and boring food? Today, I am going to give you some tips on how to introduce more sazón and excitement into your diet.


To start the journey of adding more flavor into your meal preps and meal plans, you have to start by trying to mix up your classics. Let’s say you always have chicken and rice; mix it up by cooking the chicken differently. Whether it is a change of seasoning, cooking method, adding different vegetables, or even the cut of the meat; small changes can actually make you look forward to eating your meal, instead of just eating it for sustenance.


Next, I would try investing in a simple cookbook and start playing with the recipes. You don’t immediately have to start changing the recipes of the book, but making small changes can change not only how you feel about your food, but your confidence in the kitchen. Follow the recipes and try them, then see how you can improve them to fit your diet plan. It is really fun to find a new recipe and give it your own twist! For example, I recently got a cookbook called “That Sounds So Good” by Carla Lalli Music. There is a recipe for a greens, beans, and sausage soup but I decided to give it my own spin by making it into a stew by adding extra protein and different seasonings. Let me tell you, that stew was “soooo good”. Not only did it have all the required macro and micro nutrients my body needed but I had turned it into something that was my own. Practicing turning recipes you know into something you love can really empower yourself in the kitchen.


Lastly, I would recommend trying new foods. I know that trying different kinds of food can be intimidating, especially if they are foods from other countries and different cultures from your own. You don’t have to go out to a Venezuelan restaurant and try mondongo or go to a Nigerian restaurant and eat fufu; start small, with lighter flavors. I always like to introduce people to Venezuelan food by having them try an arepa because it is easy to understand and replicate. Plus they are a very good source carbohydrates for a good pre lift meal.


I really hope you found these tips useful, and hopefully they will make your meals a little more exciting and a little more you – buen provecho!



Girl Talk: Nutrition with Caroline

Hitting plateaus in your training is something that all lifters and fitness enthusiasts may experience. Getting over these plateaus can be tricky and you may not know where to start. One place to begin is taking a look at what your nutrition is like. Nutrition can be a topic that is a little intimidating to fully understand. Luckily, we have your back!


On May 14th we will be hosting a nutritional seminar. The seminar will cover nutritional basics, uncommon factors that may affect your nutrition, and a plan of attack for your diet that you can implement immediately. If you are at all interested in learning about how to upgrade your nutrition and lifestyle, you should attend!


The seminar will be led by Caroline Harpel. Caroline is a champion powerlifter, founder of Mighty Nutrition LLC and proud Union Fitness Member. 


She said is passionate about creating change in the lives of others and uses nutritional coaching as a vessel to do so. She plans to share the nutritional tips, tricks and information that she learned not only through her education but also her personal experiences.


To RSVP for your spot, scan the QR code on the image for this post and it will take you directly to the sign-up sheet.  There will also be flyers around the gym with the QR code. We hope to see all of you there. Also, for the ladies planning to attend make sure you stick around after for the Ladies’ Night Lift.




Sign Up Here:


When: Saturday, May 14th from 3:30-4:30pm

Where: Union Fitness (100 S Commons Pittsburgh, PA 15212)


Holiday Season Tips

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The holiday season is upon us and we here at UF are excited for the new year, while also celebrating an exciting end to 2021. Here are some tips (and some ways we can help), for a strong end to 2021, and stronger start to 2022.


  1. Bring someone to the gym for our free week. If you have anyone coming from out of town, bring them to the gym Dec 23-Dec 31st for a free week. Have a friend who doesn’t train, bring them over. This offer is for anyone who is not a member and they do not need a member with them. This is an open invite for all to come try UF for one week. This membership will be an unlimited membership so please help others discover the beauty of strength.
  2. Give yourself a break. Yes, holiday parties will involve cookies and libations. Just get back on it the next day. It’s OK to be human.
  3. Keep your sleep schedule. Sleep is one of the most important acts humans do. Through all the adaptation we have seen as humans, the body has never changed how much rest we need. So try to stay on point.
  4. Get ready for SPIN! We are adding spin back to UF. Starting in January we will be having spin classes as well as our normal cardiolab classes. So try something new here at UF.
  5. Drink more water. Before the cookie tray hit the water fountain. Water will help reduce our urges, as well as just generally making us better.
  6. Serve others. Servant leadership is very important, especially at this time of the year. Do some good out there, it will come back to you ten fold.


Thank you for reading my rants about how we can improve ourselves and others. Now let’s all go out there this holiday season and share the love.



Tis’ the Season of Bulking

UF has a very diverse membership, we have competitive lifters, athletes, business workers, yoga fans, and everyone in between. For some of these people bulking is a good word, for others it is an unwanted side affect of the holidays. The cold weather tends to bring less hikes, less sunlight, and more cookies/libations into the Pittsburgh region. For those of you who would like to avoid bulking this time of the year, I have some tips to help you out.


  1. Focus on what matters. Will one cookie or one drink be the difference maker? NO! Yet, one drink and one cookie nightly will be. So enjoy the cookie at the party and realize it won’t be the one that matters, the ones you have at home may be the difference maker. So have fun, be social, enjoy the cookie tray, then go home and get back to your healthy eating habits.
  2. Stick to your plan. Just like in step one, we must continue to do what is right when no one is watching. Look in your kitchen, do you have healthy or unhealthy options? Surround yourself with good options.
  3. Find mini workouts. Make a commitment to walk, jog, move, or do anything throughout the day that will burn a few extra calories. If you have a dog walk the little guy he needs it.
  4. Set a new routine. Over the next few months set some new goals. Make your goals input not outcome based. If you have an Apple Watch then a simple one is fill your rings. If not then how about just walking daily. Set a very simple achievable goal and stick to it daily.
  5. Come see us at UF more! Yeah I had to plug the gym here. We are hosting out annual Turkey Burn workout. Come and burn a few hundred calories prior to stuff your face. Then go stuff your face and enjoy every bite.
  6. Last but not least. Give yourself a break. We will all mess up, and we will all fall off the wagon, that’s OK, just get back up and keep moving. Life, fitness, and health are all marathons, do what you can to keep moving.


Happy holiday season and happy bulk season too for our lifters.

Break Your Rules

Dr John Berardi is someone who has really helped me throughout my career when it comes to diet and nutrition. Years ago he wrote a book (I forget which one), to help people with their diet and training. In the book he recommended using an excel sheet to record your diet. The method he used was simple. Set a few simple rules such as,


  1. Have protein in each meal.
  2. Have fruits or veggies in each meal.
  3. Drink water at each meal.

I am not sure these were his rules, yet this is what I took away from the rules. Once this is set make an excel sheet with 7 columns and as many rows as meals you would eat each day.  If you were eating 5 meals per day you would have 35 empty boxes. Now each time you follow your rules put a check, and when you fail put an x in the corresponding box. At the end of the week score your sheet. Now try to do better next week.


Improvement is not linear yet your steps for improvement can be. Let’s say you had 20 meals that you followed the rules in week one, and 15 that you didn’t. This is your baseline. Just be one meal better next week. Keep taking steps in that directions. Here is the kicker, for most people scoring 100% on this is not only impossible, it isn’t a happy life. No matter how good you get at this don’t try to get to 100%, break your rules 10% of the time. This 10% is life that happens. Sometimes Marcus opens a new doughnut shop, and next thing you know we are eating doughnuts here at UF. If 2020 taught us anything it is, don’t turn down the opportunity to have a beer with a good friend.


Now I ask you, can you go set some rules, believe in those rules, and break them sometimes? Just by the act of being conscience of your decisions I can promise you that you will feel healthier and stronger. Until then I’ll be here eating the peaches that Sarah brought to the gym.


Sugar, Sugar, Sugar, and HFCS

The good old American diet, quick and assessable greasy fat or sugary foods. YUM, am I right? In America, there is heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and an obesity epidemic. There is room to point fingers at a lot of reasons but in this, we’ll focus on added sugars like high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).  


HFCS was invented in 1965 and in the 70s it was being marketed. Over the years, this has been used more often for food and drink products. Which is found in most of the foods and drinks we consume (e.g. bread, soda, juice, canned fruit, cereal, & coffee creamers, etc). This has become a common ingredient because it is cheap and easy to manufacture. 


High-fructose corn syrup is an artificial sugar made from corn syrup. HFCS needs to be broken down into glucose, glycogen, or fat by the liver before being used as fuel. In America, the increased sugar consumption per person per year has greatly increased. This increase consumption can cause serious health issues mentioned in the beginning. Glucose will stimulate the area of your brain that controls appetite, whereas, fructose does not, which means you could eat more than planned. Are you wondering what overeating can lead to? Well, have you heard of visceral fat? It is the most harmful type of body fat. HFCS will promote visceral fat build-up on your major organs such as the liver, kidneys, pancreas, intestines, and heart. This can increase your risk for heart disease, stroke, artery disease, diabetes, and some cancers.


I’m not saying avoid HFCS or sugars at all costs. These sugars are everywhere and can be hard to avoid, especially in our more sedentary, grab-and-go society. Just try to be mindful of what you are putting into your body. 

Member Spotlight

Here at UF we love our members so much it’s time we show you off and have CJ climb the incline like King Kong, he will shout your presence from atop of the highest point of Mt. Washington!


This week we’d like to shout out Jessie Theisen.


Ladies & Gents, here is Jessie in her own words.


“I grew up in central California (where the cows overpopulate the people) in a small town called Visalia, however, I was born at Fort Bragg, NC (military brat- dad was 20 years 82nd Airborne and mom a marine). After spending the majority of my childhood in central CA, at 19 I picked up and moved to LA in 2008 where I lived there intermittently through 2016 (moved to PGH with my then boyfriend, now husband summer of 2016). Of my past lives, the most interesting is probably the opportunity I had as a professional makeup artist working in film, runway, magazines, commercials and doing everything from beauty makeup to special effects/gore (the latter was the most fun)! I was a professional makeup artist for the 8 year stint I was in LA.


For my current work, I am a team lead for a group of loan analysts at a financial tech company called LendingHome (they specialize in mortgages for people who fix and flip houses)- my team helps process that product, attempting to locate any process/design flaws and work with our engineering team to better perfect it. In short, it’s a fancy customer service job. I love the people I work with and can’t imagine being anywhere else anytime soon.


My training background really starts with Union Fitness. I was never the sporty or athletic type- I was a band nerd who could play Sweet Child O’ Mine on 5 different instruments while marching in a god-awful wool suit (feather and all). I would always strive to find ways to be active, though; I just never really landed on what worked for me. Took everything from cardio barre, to pilates, yoga, I just didn’t fit in any of those spaces. My drive and motivation quickly waned until I found UF, where they encouraged people of all athletic abilities to pick up a weight, and put it down, and pushed to do the same the following day/week, only heavier. THIS.WAS.MY. SHIT. Attending the #powerful classes on a regular was therapeutic for me. There were stents where I was going 5-6 days a week, sometimes two-a-days. It wasn’t even just the workouts anymore, it was the community of people who went to the same classes, continuing to build each other up and cheer each other on in their small(or big) victories. A place of misfits that I could call my own; UF is home to where I’ve made some of my closest friends. I’m grateful to the atmosphere it has cultivated and maintained from its origination until now.


The fun shit:

  1. If I could eat one food every day it’d be a cold-cut turkey sandwich (you’re free to DM me on particulars), I’m a fanatic and those close to me know it, there’s a certain consistency to the bread, color combo of the mayo and mustard together, a particular type of ground oregano- there’s an art to it, I promise; to which I must add, PITTSBURGH! Stop heating that shit up and putting fries on it…. STOP THAT SHIT! STOP IT RIGHT NOW!
  2. If I was a piece of equipment at Union, I’d probably be the EliteEFTS PRO, short monster mini band (yeah, the small green one) – functional, small, sturdy, pain in the ass.
  3. I’m competing in my first ever bodybuilding competition this May 8th. Signed up last March a week before Covid shut everything down- (original show meant to be last Oct). I have gone through 2 cuts now, and 2 refeeds. What was originally meant to be a 6 month prep will be 14 after all is said and done. I’m f’n jazzed to get on stage and have one of them cold-cuts mentioned under #1 right after!
  4. The most under-rated candy is Chewy Sprees.
  5. I have only ever owned pitbull dogs as pets; they’re the biggest derpsters and I love everything about them. I have a black and white named Trouble; I would die for her.
  6. Oh, fave exercise:  deadlifts.”


Thank you, Jessie for being a great member of our community!