personal trainer in toronto, eric astrauskas, in home personal and studio personal training

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Ask the Trainer

Feel free to ask me any questions related to health, exercise, and nutrition. If I cannot provide a sufficient and educated answer with my knowledge and expertise, I will forward your question to one of my colleagues. I will try to answer each question the best I can within 500-1000 words. Where possible I will redirect you to recommended further reading.


Question: I work with computers all day and sit for long hours with little breaks. I find that my mid-section is flabby. How much cardio and what intensity do you recommend for someone like me?

For desk workers, I recommend fidgeting as much as possible to help aid in burning calories. During breaks (even if they are short as a few minutes), try to focus on large muscles with body weight exercises. Include; squats, lunges, pushups, dips on your chair, crunches, and planks. Try to keep the heart rate up and have very little rest between sets. If you have time outside of work, even 30 minutes, I would include 20min of strength training (focusing only on compound lifting), and 10-15min of high intensity interval cardio (stuff like skipping, steps, rowing, battling ropes, kettlebell swings, mountain climbers etc.) Do short bursts of 45 seconds to a minute, and rest for 30 seconds. Watch my boot camp promo for some great exercises for fat loss.

Also, if you are sitting all day, make sure to do stretching that release tightness and improve posture. These include; hip flexor and hamstring stretches, chest and shoulder stretching. Having tight hip flexors can make your belly bulge more because your pelvis gets anteriorly rotated.


Question: I am afraid to do deadlifts because I am scared of hurting my back. I know most trainers say they are an essential lift? Are there any alternatives?

The deadlift is such a basic "functional" human movement. It is important to learn how to properly lift an object off the floor with maximum muscular efficiency and safety. To master the deadlift it requires muscle coordination/mind-muscle connection. Form is also essential to prevent lower back injury. I cringe when I see a lifter rounding their back/using lower back too much when deadlifting, it is a recipe for disaster (muscle strain and disc compression injury). Keep the spine close to neutral. The deadlift should feel similar to doing a leg press. If your form is poor (rounding back, or starting with hips too high), a simple thing like putting the bar on a platform may help. The deadlift works so many muscles (glutes, quads, hamstrings, errectors, transverse abdominus, traps, forearms, and others). I do not feel there is an equal alternative. To get similar muscle recruitment/stimulation you would have to combine exercises like back extensions, lunges, kettlebell swings, and barbell hip thrusts and more. I recommend you get assistance with your form. Have an experienced coach guide you or record a video of your lift and make appropriate corrections. Progress slowly. A deadlift is a posterior chain exercise and you should focus most of the tension on hamstrings and glutes, not lower back. To prevent injury I also recommend trying to achieve muscular balance and maintain flexibility with stretching and foam rolling. Deadlifting with tight muscles due to muscle imbalances or poor flexibility can cause injury typically to lower back. If you follow these tips you should feel safe and comfortable doing deadlifts. However, if you have a pre-existing spinal problem (osteoporosis, disc degeneration, slipped disc) or if you have an excessive lordotic curve (sway back), I recommend avoiding the deadlift.


I suffer from high blood pressure (around 150/100). Are there any exercises that I should avoid?

First of all if you are not taking any medications I would suggest getting help from a naturopath or dietician for ways to decrease/normalize your blood pressure (this will include usually including more magnesium in your diet. Also, work on stress management and take a yoga class.

Now on to answer your question. You want to avoid exercises where your head is lower than your lower body and ones that jack up your blood pressure (eg. leg press, incline crunches). Also, stay away from exercises that require held muscle contractions (eg. planks).


Question: What supplements do you take?

Whey Protein Isolate (Kaizen), or vegan source (Sunwarrior) - for muscle building/repair, immune system, and health in general.

Greens (Vibrant Health)- Vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, pre and probiotics.

Vitamin B Complex (Thorne Research) - Energy metabolism, helps utilize protein and sugars.

Vitamin C - food source (Organic Traditions Camu Powder). This is good for connective tissues, immune system and lowering cortisol levels. Just one teaspoon supplies 1200% of your daily value of vitamin C. Sometimes I will drink lemon water in the morning, other times it is camu. Beware, it is a bit more sour than lemons!

Vitamin D3 - (Carlson Labs). Bone health, fat loss, and to help fight off depression.

Fish oil - (Ascenta). Joint health and arterial/heart health among many other benefits.

Magnesium - I usually get this from raw cacao and eat before and after workouts but I also frequently use 200-400mg magnesium glycinate (CanPrev). Glycinate is one of the best absorbable forms of magnesium. This is for muscle recovery and relaxation/better sleep. There are many other benefits of magnesium and people of this generation seem to be chronically low. I take this after workouts and before bed to help with sleep. Other ways to get magnesium is from rub-on oils or Epsom salts.

Zinc - (AOR) for testosterone, immune system, and sleep. Zinc has many other health benefits and is involved in a tonne of enzymatic reactions.

Pre-workout - (Dr. Jim Stoppani's Pre Jym)- I use this when I need an extra stimulant boost in the gym. It is addictive and tolerance is quickly built so try to take a few weeks break from it. It also contains BCAAs (branched chain amino acids) and creatine for muscle recovery/building.

* When shopping for supplements it is a good idea to look into the research. Some companies add fillers or slap on erroneous labels, you might not be getting what they claim. I recommend PubMed, Labdoor , and Consumer Research.


Question: Who are your inspirations in the field of sports science and nutrition? What books or videos would you recommend?

I have so many inspirations from the health sciences from some of my professors and coaches to many world famous fitness gurus (few of which I have had the privelege to meet and share ideas with). I feel this list will be incomplete but here are some of the individuals and their books that have shaped my interest and knowledge in sports science and nutrition.

Dr. Tudor Bompa (former York Univerisity professor, one of the first to use strategic periodization methods with Olympic athletes- along with Russian coaches). Dr. Bompa left York University before I attended. This was very unfortunate because I would have loved to be his student and pick his brain. His books are a great reference to trainers and anyone serious about exercise, sport, and training. I highly recommend "Periodization-5th Edition: Theory and Methodology of Training" and "Serious Strength Training ".

Steve Cotter (International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation president, kinesiology grad) - one of the most well-educated, and passionate fitness gurus I have had the chance to communicate with (interview here) . He also has a kinesiology degree. It doesn't take long to learn that Steve cares so much about training, personal development, and helping others. His kettlebell and bodyweight training instructional videos break movements down very slowly step by step. They may not be the most exciting and "flashy" videos but by watching these you will walk away feeling comfortable using the kettllebell as an exercise tool. His demonstrations are detailed and precise. I highly recommend; "Encyclopedia of Bodyweight Training", "Encyclopedia of Kettlebell Lifting".

Dr. Jim Stoppani - another fitness guru that truly cares about his readers, follwers, and clients.He provides efficient responses to his "Jym Army" followers. He goes the extra mile. He puts a lot of effort into educating with written content and videos. He has an education in exercise science and was a competitive bodybuilder. He is one of the best authors on His programs, "Shortcut to Shred" and "Short-Cut to Size" are very effective. He also has his own brand of supplements which are some of the best (I especially like his preworkout "Pre-Jym" for when I need extra energy and focus). I highly recommend "Encyclopedia of Muscle and Strength .

Dr. Vladimir Zatsiorski - I do not know much about him personally, but his science-based training reference book is one of the best I read during my time studying kinesiology. It is heavy in physics and biomechanics and it is not the lightest read. This book could have been part of a series and it is a shame that it is only a couple hundred pages. I recommend this to anyone seriously studying to become a fitness professional. I highly recommend "Science and Practice of Strength Training-2nd Edition".

Bret Contreras - "The Glute Guy", Bret Contreras is a very passionate fitness professional. His site is loaded with quality, scientic-based information. He has a great track record for getting results with his clients. His training style may be a little unorthodox but it is highly effective. What first hooked me on his work, was his research on how different exercises stimulate the percentage of muscle fibers in each muscle group differently. His used EMG testing on a huge list of exercises to see which exercise was most effective at stimulating a certain muscle/muscle group. He practices what he preaches and he is one hell of a strong dude. I highly recommend "Bodyweight Strength Training Anatomy"..

Pavel Tsatsouline - Russian Kettlebell Guru. His books and videos were the first I ever read and watched. This opened the door to a new kind of high intensity training that involves all types (power, strength, and endurance) in one. He inspired me to dig deeper into kettlebell training. If it weren't for Pavel, I wouldn't have learned all the great information from Steve Cotter. I highly recommend;"Enter the Kettlebell!: Strength Secret of the Soviet Supermen" , and "The "Russian Kettlebell Challenge".

Scott Sonnon - Scott Sonnon introduced me to Indian clubs and clubbells. These have been used for centuries for ceremonies and training. He combines martial arts training, yoga, and clubbell training in his workouts. He emphasizes enriching the body, mind, and soul. Clubbell training is one hell of a workout. Just like the kettlebell, you are working power, strength, and cardio. This provided a new challenge to me and my clients. You perform natural circular movements with clubbells. Clubs challenge grip strength and the core (especially the transferse abdominals) because the shape acts like an extended lever. Not only that, you can have a great shoulders and rotator cuff workout with these tools. Scott has inspired me in other ways because he has overcome adversity and health issues. I recommend "The Big Book of Clubbell Training", and "Clubbell Training for Circular Strength (DVD)".

Charles Poliquin - Charles Poliquin has trained many Olympic champions and bodybuilders. I have been fortunate to attend Poliiquin's presentations. You definintely need to bring a notebook when you sit in one of his lectures/workshops. He is one of the most well-read fitness gurus I have ever met. His presentations are no holds barred. Although he may seem like a serious guy, he is actually hilarious. He enjoys sharing knowledge and allowing others to pick his brain. Follow his principles of training and you will progress through plateaus. Poliquin has also developed a method of measuring skinfolds and determining what hormones need to be rebalanced. It is called "Biosignature Modulation". I highly recommend "The Poliquin Principles: Successful Methods for Strength and Mass Development".

Dr. Natasha Turner - Dr. Turner is a naturopathic doctor who owns Clear Medicine in Yorkville, Toronto. She has been featured on several TV shows including Dr. Oz. I have been fortunate enough to meet her. She is very down to earth, caring, and passionate about her work. One of my favourite books on nutrition, lifestyle, and hormonal balance is her "The Hormone Diet: Lose Fat. Gain Strength. Live Younger Longer".


Question: What are the best ways and products to measure body fat?

The most accurate ways to measure body fat are DEXA ( X-ray absorptiometry) scan and the Bod Pod. The former is tool that takes pictures of slices of your body and will give an accurate measurement of body composition (body fat percentage, muscle mass, and bone density). The Bod Pod is hydrostatic weighing and based on water displacement. Both tools are accurate within 1-2%. These tests are both very expensive.

A less expensive, but accurate, way to measure body fat is by using fat calipers. The most trusted brand on the market and ones used by universities are Lange calipers (which I use on my clients). These can range from $200-$600. It is important to learn the skills of properly taking skinfolds. These calipers will give you a result that is accurate within 2-4%. There are cheap calipers on the market, manual and electronic, but they are not as accurate.

The worst way to measure body fat is using handheld bioelectric impedence devices. This is the way most big box gyms measure their clients' body fat. An minute electric current is conducted from one electrode through the body to another electrode. The measurement is given based on resistance to the electric current. The more fat, the more resistance. The problem with this method is fluctuating hydration levels. If you are hydrated, the result will be a much lower fat percentage. If you are dehydrated, it will be higher. This is a cheap and fast way to measure fat... with poor accuracy.


Question: Building a home gym on a $5000 budget. What equipment do you suggest?

If you have a decent amount of room, say a whole basement, I recommend the following to create the ultimate home studio gym for effective training. You can purchase my whole list of equipment for around $4500 new. But you can these used on Kijiji or Craigslist and probably get this whole list for $5000 or under.

Squat stand ($140) or even better a Power Rack ($500~), ,Barbell set ($400), Power Block dumbbells ($300), Kettlebells set (~$600), Clubbells set (~$400), Weight bench ($300), Pull-Up bar ($30), TRX Suspension Trainer ($150), Equalizers ($100), Battling rope ($60), , Ab slings ($35), Strength bands set (~$100), Adjustable resistance band set ($50), ,Stability ball ($30), Landmine rotational trainer ($100), , Skipping rope ($30), Concept2 Rowing Machine (~$1200).


Question: Do you recommend pre-workout supplements? If so, which?

Yes and no. If you are in a rut and need to start up a new routine, sometimes it is good to get a little stimulant push to get going. For me, this is typically in the cold, dark, winter months. Some of the pre-workout supplements on the market also contain a good dose of amino acids to help with muscle building and recovery. Some do not only contain caffeine but other psycho-active stimulants. These are very effective but they can be over-stimulating for some and cause anxiety and jitteryness. These supplements can be highly addictive and you build up a high tolerance where you need twice the recommended dose to get the original effect. There is also a problem with withdrawal. For this reason, I do not recommend using these products for over 4 to 6 week periods at a time. Another problem with these supplements is that they typically contain artificial sweeteners. This is because the active ingredients alone would taste pretty awful. This is another reason to limit pre-workout intake. You may be able to find a pre-workout in capsule form that does not contain artificial sweeteners. I have tried many powders and the best quality and most effective one I have discovered is Pre-Jym by Dr. Jim Stoppani. If you want to stay away from pre-workout stimulants and still take something that will help with energy and focus, there is an amazing product that I just discovered by Advanced Orthomolecular Research called Beets 'n' Berries. It is loaded with beets which improve blood flow (along with many greens). I find it gives me a lot of energy and mental focus to complete intense workouts.


Question: Can you really have an effective 30 minute workout?

30 minute sessions can be effective. I recommend 4-5 sessions per week for optimal results. As long as you have a well-structure plan that focuses on larger muscle groups and keeping rest times short, you can have a great workout in only 30min. Also, make sure to vary your routine. I would recommend cardio intervals between sets or after strength training. As long as you are pushing your personal limits consistently, results will follow. In the coming months, I will be offering free 8 week programs of 30min workout videos for beginner, intermediate, and advanced exercisers.


Question: What are some of the most useless exercises I should exclude from my workout programs?

It is hard to call an exercise useless. It is more of a problem with the application of the exercise. You have to ask yourself why am I performing this exercise? What do I hope to accomplish or improve? Is this the best and safest choice of exercise for my goal?. Some exercises may be inappropriate or contraindicated. For example, say you are a small point guard strength training to improve your basketball game. You should not be so concerned with your upper body strength and how much you can bench press. The position does not require a tremendous amount of upper body strength. Another example, a hockey player who plays defence and requires a great amount of upper body strength and power, should not focus too much on "isolation" type exercises like bicep curls. Another example would be someone who has degenerative joints doing high impact exercises like box jumps, lunge jumps, or burpees. I cringe when I see older adult bootcamp-ers performing such risky exercises that are not appropriate for them. There are other ways to get cardio and work on strength and power without compromising your joints. There are however, a couple of exercises that I exclude in most peoples' programs because of the limited use and application - these include dumbbell side bends and front raises.


Question: What are the best exercises to build a better butt?

Some of the best exercises to build strong, curvy glutes include; barbell hip thrusts, deadlifts, squats, bridges, three-way lunges, and step-ups. The glutes are such a large strong muscle. Make sure you lift heavy while maintaining control and tension. Bret Contreras, "the glute guy", offers great tips. If you are female, try not to compare yourself to fitness models in magazines as they are often photoshopped and some even have butt implants (which is becoming more popular in this "era of the butt"). Just pay attention to your own progress.


Question: What exercises should I include to build bigger arms?

To build bigger and stronger arms, make sure you focus on more compound exercises like chin-ups, pull-ups, hammer grip pull-ups, tricep bench press, dips. That doesn't mean to exclude isolation exercises. Bicep isolation exercises should include; preacher curls, isolation curls, spider curls, incline curls, incline hammer curls, reverse curls with cable and EZ curl bar, cable curls (with elbow back and bicep in stretched position), and straight arm cable curls. Tricep isolation exercises should include flat or decline bench skull crushers, cable pressdowns, overhead dumbbell and rope extensions, dumbbell and cable kickbacks, and reverse grip tricep extensions. Smaller muscles typically recover faster so you can work arms twice per week with 72 hours rest between workouts..


Question: I am a beginner tennis player - what strength training exercises should I be doing regularly?

When looking to build a strength program for any sport it is good to do a movement anaysis for the sport and understand the requirements. Torso rotation is essential for an effective forehand, backhand, and serve. Therefore, it is important to add oblique training (with low to high and high to low woodchoppers/cable twists, medicine ball twists, and side planks) to your regime. Tennis is heavy on the shoulders, so shoulder presses and reverse fly (dumbell and cable) should be also included in your program. Strong shoulders are great for tennis but you must also protect them with internal and external rotator cuff exercises with cables and dumbbells. Strong forehand and cross-body shots require strong pecs so include push-ups and bench presses along with dumbbell and cable fly. More advanced players learn to use their legs more in strokes and serving, so include squats, and multi-directional lunges. Do not forget weak links, add forearm flexor and extensor exercises at the end of workouts. I recommend reading "Complete Conditioning for Tennis" by Roetert and Ellenbecker.



Question: What do you think are your biggest strengths as a trainer? And why do people continue with you?

This question is difficult to answer and remain modest. Probably easier using bullet points, but here goes. Aside from my education and experience, I think two of my biggest strengths are my enthusiasm and willingness to learn and adapt. I will go the extra mile to find answers to clients’ questions and try to find the best possible solutions. I will customize programs according to goals and abilities. I am very well organised and create plans well ahead. I do not randomly put together programs with variety for the sake of variety. I have a good sense of my clients’ levels of ability and know just how much to put them. With over a decade of training, no clients have ever been injured training with me. That is something I take pride in because I have heard many horror stories. I think people see that I have had my own challenges with losing weight and overcoming depression and they are inspired to keep pushing forward. I also think I have an “easy to get along with personality”.


Question: I have knee pain when I squat or lunge? Should I stop or work through it?

I believe in listening to your body. If it hurts, avoid it. Have an assessment/diagnostics done to see you if you have any ligament problems, tendonitis, osteoarthritis, or meniscus tear among other things. Have a professional look at your lunge and squat mechanics to see if you are not using your hips enough or your knees are not tracking properly or some other problem with your form. Also, it might be a good idea to have a postural assessment done. Also, it is a good idea to know if you have any muscular weaknesses/imbalances (in glutes, hamstrings, and quads).

If you do have a structural problem with your knee joint, your doctor may advise you to do quarter or half squats and lunges and no high impact cardio activities (focus only on swimming and biking). You may also be advised to wear compression knee braces when training.


Question: Is it really necessary to warm-up before training? Why?

A warm-up can be boring but it is a good idea not to avoid. Focus on whole body movements for warm-ups (rowing machine, squats). This gets the blood flowing and nutrients/oxygen to the muscles. It also increases temperature and lower viscosity (less friction) of the muscles, preparing them for exercise. It is also good for injury prevention. Cold, tight muscles are vulnerable to strains and tears. Read the Pubmed article “ Warming-up and stretching for improved physical performance and prevention of sports-related injuries.


Question: What are some of the limitations of muscle growth?

Some factors that limit how much muscle you put on include; bone structure, hormones, nitrogen balance, and lifestyle factors. If you have thick bones (Eastern Europeans are good examples), you can put on more muscle mass. You can get a good idea of approximately how much muscle mass you can put on by measuring your wrist girth. Here is a good body proportion calculator. With higher levels of growth hormone and testosterone one can have more potential for muscle growth. A positive nitrogen balance from daily protein consumption will help you gain muscle balance. Lots of numbers are tossed around but a good rule of thumb is to try to consume about a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight if you are looking to gain muscle (a 200lb person would aim to consume 200g of protein per day). Rest and recovery is also important to maintain hormonal balance and boost growth hormone levels.


Question: I am female and my upper and lower body strength training is limited by my grip strength. I have to use a lower weight on exercises like deadlifts, rows, and lat pulldowns because my grip gives out. What do you recommend?

I recommend working on forearm strength exercises, gripping exercises with gripper, and strength training with "Fat Gripz". Read more on this here and here. Do the exercises at the end of workouts up to 3 times per week until you built up your grip strength. But while you are working on your grip strength, you can “cheat” with your deadlifts, rows, lat pulldowns, shrugs etc. by using lifting hooks or straps. I recommend "Haulin' Hooks". These tools will enable you to go heavier and complete sets when your forearms give out.


Question: I pulled my bicep at the elbow when I was moving several months ago and it hurts to do curls or pull-downs and rows. Can you give me any advice?

It is hard to give you a good answer here. I would go light weight and see if the pain is still there. Avoid exercises that cause the pain. I would recommend you go see a sports doctor and maybe they will do an MRI or ultrasound and determine if you have a tear. If you have a completely torn distal biceps tendon, the muscle should appear bulging and shortened. There would have been bruising at the time of injury. If it is partially torn, there might not be any visible signs. Biceps tendon tears usually require surgery within 2 weeks of the injury. The prognosis is not that great if you waited too long. Scar tissue and tendonitis develops. If surgery is not an option, you might be able to do some of the painful exercises if you wear an elbow brace (I recommend . Unfortunately with a tear, they say you typically lose around 30% of biceps strength for flexing elbow and supination of forearm.


Question: I am a vegetarian and I want to gain muscle and lose fat. What foods should I be including in my diet?

The hardest part of the vegetarian diet is getting enough protein and while keeping carbohydrates moderate to low. I recommend hemp and pumpkin seeds for healthy protein and fats. I also recommend Greek yogurt for high protein and probiotics. You can up your protein intake with various nuts (cashews, almonds, and walnuts) but consume them in moderation because they are high in calories due to their fat content. Eggs are a great source of protein, 6 grams each, and a good source of B vitamins. An easy way to meet daily protein requirements is by having whey protein shakes. A variety of beans are good but they contain high levels of carbohydrates so they should be consumed moderately. Soy products are questionable because many times they are GMO and they increase estrogen and cause various other problems. Please investigate about the negatives associated with soy beans.

Question: What are 5 of the toughest ab exercises?

Hanging leg raises using ab slings, ab roll-outs using an ab wheel or a stability ball, Crunches with TRX suspension trainer (pull back with heels as you crunch), medicine ball crunch passes, and rope crunches.

Question: How do I build the different muscles of the quadriceps?

You can target different heads of the quadiceps by slightly changing the toe position while performing squats and leg extensions. By pointing your toes straight it stresses the rectus femoris (mid-thigh) to a greater extent. By pointing your toes out, you will be stressing the vastus medialis ("tear drop" or medial head) to a greater extent. By poitning your toes inward, you will be stressing the vastus lateralis (lateral or outside head) extent.

Question: How should I be breathing during exercises? And why?

It is important to exhale at the shortening/positive phase of lifts (example, pushing up the barbell during chest press, the upward portion of a pull-up, coming out of a squat). This is to avoid elevating your blood pressure too much. If you hold your breathe too much or inhale during the shortening phase, the pressure builds up. There is also a sudden drop in blood pressure. This can lead to fainting. Also the increased blood pressure from holding your breath can cause vessels to rupture in the brain (some people are more susceptible than others). Inhaling during the negative phase is even more important for certain lifts. This increased intra-abdominal pressure, whereby protecting your lower back. Examples would be inhaling on the downward motion of squats and deadlifts.


Question: How do I develop big calves?

To build big, strong calves it is important to work both the soleus (deeper muscle) and gastrocnemius (outer muscle), and not ignore the tibialis anterior (the muscle beside your shinbone that raises your foot). In a calf building program, work on heavy faster lifts (while maintaining tension) because the calf muscles have a higher percentage of fast twitch fibers. Include standing calf raises (machine, barbell, or dumbbell), seated calf raises (machine), and toe raises using a tibilias machine or cable mahine using an ankle strap on your foot. Another creative way to work the tibialis is to slide your foot into a kettlebell handle. The tibialis is a relatively weak muscle so you do not need to go heavy.


Question: I have recently heard crunches are unhealthy and shouldn't be performed to developed abs. Is this true?

The answer is yes and no. Excessive crunches will lead to wear and tear on the spinal discs. This will affect the older population moreso than younger people. With abdominal training, it is a good idea to include hanging leg raises and a variety of planks (stability ball, floor, etc.). Do not just work the external abdominal muscles (rectus abdominus) with crunches, also include training the internal abdominals (transferse abdominus) with planks. Do not only focus on standard crunches for high reps. Also, work the opposing muscles (erector spinae) in the lower back. Just like working any muscle group, add variety. Anything done to excess can cause injury (for example focusing too much on pushing exercises without balancing pulling exercises).


Question: What are your favourite, most effective cardio exercises?

For cardio sessions, I prefer high interval training methods either after weight training or between sets (look up Dr. Jim Stoppani's cardio acceleration techniques). For this, I enjoy sprint intervals, hill runs, skipping, steps, rowing, battling ropes and kettlebell swings. The key here is to mix things up and do whole body exercises at a high intensity for short duration. Aside from these exercises, I get great cardio workouts from swimming, basketball, and tennis. Here is some more information and videos on HIIT cardio training.


Question: I am on the go a lot and find it hard to get in snacks to keep my protein intake high. I do not have a chance to make protein shakes, so I prefer bars. Which do you suggest?

I like Quest bars because they are high in protein and fiber and low in sugar. I also make my own protein cookies. These are even healthier because they have several sources of protein and are raw because I make them in a food dehydrator. My recipe to make 12 cookies includes; 2-2.5 cups of oatmeal, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup walnut pieces, 4 scoops of whey isolate powder (vanilla Kaizen), a banana, 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, 5 tablespoons coconut flakes, ~2-2.5 cups water (depending how moist you want them). Since these do not have any preservatives you must refridgerate to prevent mold. Also, less moisture equals less chance of mold.


Question: How do I improve vertical?

To improve vertical leaping abilities there are several exercises that I recommend. Include major lifts like deadlifts, squats, snatch, and clean and press. But I also recommend shifting to high impact and dynamic exercises for several weeks. These exercises would include; box jumps and drop-off to jump with a plyometric box (plymetric box exercises), skipping on single legs, lunge jumps, squat jumps, standing long jumps. You can work up to performing these exercises with a weighted vest. "Jumpsoles" are also effective tools to help add inches to your leaping abilities. A good reference book for explosive vertical training is High Powered Plyometrics

Question: How much water should I consume during a workout and throughout the day?

Water consumption per day varies depending on your bodyweight, age, and physical activity. But on average a good amount to consume is around 3L for an active person. Within a workout, drink about 250ml every 15min of intense activity. Personally, I like to drink natural spring water (I will somtimes drive to springs and collect it myself in large glass wine jugs) or Zero filter water. Zero filter water takes out pretty much everything; chlorine, fluoride (reported in research even though the company does not claim this), and toxic heavy metals. Since it is almost like pure, distilled water, it is essential to consume minerals/electrolyes. You can achieve this by eating a lot of vegetables and fruits, but an easier way is to add a bit of Himalayan or Celtic sea salt to your water and on meals. These salts contain a vast array of minerals and they taste great - much better than processed table salt.


Question: What are some typical meals and snacks you eat and recommend?

Below are examples of some regular meals I recommend. These contain high amounts of protein, good fats, and vitamins and minerals. I do not follow specific recipes and I mix up what spices I use for nutritional benefit and flavour, so I have not included them). Feel free to use whichever spices you prefer - they are generally healthy and low calorie.

Omelet - Eggs with spinach, broccoli, sweet potato chunks (frozen) – I fry this in coconut oil and add turmeric and Celtic sea salt or Himalayan salt.

Stir Fry – Chicken or angus ground beef with broccoli, peppers (red, orange, green), garlic, onion, avocado, sweet potato

Fish – salmon, tuna, or rainbow trout with vegetables.

Rice dish – quarter plate of brown rice with chicken and various vegetables.

Slow cooked stew – chicken or beef with lentils, beans, and a variety of vegetables, and different types of broth.

Salad -  Kale, spinach, swiss chard, tomatoes, avocado, sprouts (I sprout various seeds in a sprouter) and hemp seeds.

Typical snacks – plain Greek yogurt with fruit (and sometimes hemp seeds), Quest Bars (coconut cashew), nut/seed mix (almonds, walnuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds, cranberries).

Healthy treat – protein cookies -  water, oatmeal (sometimes add a bit of Quaker oatmeal cookie mix but it has quite a bit of sugar), eggs,  whey isolate protein powder (vanilla from Ergogenics or Kaizen), raw cacao powder, walnuts, coconut flakes, sprouted chia/flax (sometimes).  I use a food dehydrator to make these so I do not destroy the protein with heat.

Smoothie – protein powder – vanilla flavour - (Kaizen), green powder (Vibrant Health, Green Vibrance), coconut oil, frozen berries or mango, water.  After workout smoothie – protein powder, banana, and raw cacao powder, water).

Fast food – If I have a choice to be healthy, I sometimes  eat shwarma.   



Question: I workout regularly and I find I have a busy mind and do not get the best sleep. Will this affect my fitness goals (gaining muscle and losing weight). How many hours of sleep should I be getting?

Without optimal sleep your body cannot repair itself efficiently after a workout. This impairs growth hormone production, muscle building, and metabolism. Cortisol and insulin levels are also affected. With this, fat tends to stick around the abdomen. With lack of sleep, you may find your sugar cravings and appetite skyrocket. Make sure you do relaxation exercises and deep breathing. It also helps to avoid electronics and lights prior to sleep. It is not so much about how many hours of sleep you get that is important, but more about how many full REM sleep cycles. I recommend taking a magnesium, taurine, and zinc supplement for sleep. Relora is also an herbal supplement that has proven benefits. Aside from this, try yoga and deep breathing before sleep. Epsom salt baths can also help get magnesium into your bloodstream quickly. Essential oils like lavender may help calm you down and sleep.


Question: What is your favourite smoothie recipe?

I have a couple “go to” recipes. My post-workout favourite smoothie is mixed frozen berries, vanilla whey isolate protein powder (Kaizen), green powder (Vibrant Health Green Vibrance) coconut oil (by Nutiva), and water. Sometimes I will add raw cacao power or nibs, avocado, and/or sprouted chia. The possibilities are endless. The Vitamix is the ultimate blender but I use the Nutri-bullet and it does a fine job. The latest version has a 2 horsepower motor for some serious blending. Here are a couple of good books for healthy shakes:

Superfood Smoothies

The Healthy Smoothie Bible


Question: What are the best exercises for biceps?

Select a combination of isolation and compound exercises with pronated, supinated, and hammer grip. Stress both the long head and short head of the biceps along with the brachialis. Your program should Include the following "isolation" exercises; preacher curls, concentration curls, incline standard curls, kettlebell curls, incline hammer curls, spider curls, straight arm cable curls, and reverse EZ bar curls. To help hammer the biceps hard, I recommend using an arm blaster this helps to prevent use of shoulders and isolate the biceps. Also add compound exercises such as; chin-ups, pull-ups, rows, and deadlifts. Charles Poliquin has produced a very good biceps training book called Arm Size and Strength: The Ultimate Guide.


Question: I experience shoulder pain when lifting weights. What should I avoid?

If it is shoulder impingement, avoid any overhead and chest presses for awhile. Also, remove front and lateral raises and upright rows from your program. It is also a good idea to avoid do heavy curls because this affects the shoulder. Work on pulls, rows, and rotator cuff work (external rotation, scarecrow, face pull). Make sure you do shoulder mobility exercises like rotations, and broomstick dislocations. Include chest and shoulder stretches and scapular retractions.


Question: What is the best time to exercise?

Exercise physiologists and other sports scientists suggest it is best to workout when your cortisol levels are elevated (you are more alert and focused). This usually occurs around 10a-12p. This is ideal. However, I believe the best time of day to workout is a time where you can keep a routine. Personally I like to workout as early as possible to make sure I get it done and keep it a habit. I do not like working out too late because I find it hard to sleep afterwards.


Question: I travel a lot, what kind of workout can I do on the road?

When I am on the road, and do not have a gym, I do some of the following bodyweight strength exercises; squats (standard and Bulgarian), lunges (standard, three-way, and walking), step-ups, push-ups (wide and narrow), dips, pull-ups, chin-ups, hanging leg raises, crunches, v-sits, flutterkicks, planks, and side planks. It is also a good idea to use a set of adjustable resistance bands. They are very portable (will fit in a small suitcase). With these you can add exercises like; shoulder presses, lateral raises, reverse fly, chest fly, tricep extensions, and bicep curls. Check out resistance band exercise videos here. For cardio, I will usually do stuff like; stairs, interval sprints, skipping, mountain climbers, tennis, or swimming.





Personal Trainer in Toronto

Eric Astrauskas, Spec. Hons. B.A.(Kinesiology), P.T.S.

Phone: 416-912-9716


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