Quick Thoughts on Plant-based Diets & Finding Balance

Plant-based diets seem to help us live longer. They’re less inflammatory, reduce our chances of ending up in the cardiac wing of the hospital, and MIGHT protect against certain cancers. Diets that include meat & animals have been widely used by competitive athletes for many years, producing stronger and stronger people each month it seems.
So here are a few quick thoughts:
  • You’ll probably live longer on a plant-based diet with minimal animal consumption (or none at all). That’s pretty cool.
  • Carnivorous diets (at least right now) seem to be better at helping us GAIN muscle. Many athletes switch to a plant-based diet in an effort to extend their careers (e.g. Tom Brady), but we don’t have enough data on “life-long plant-based athletes” to make any concrete judgements.
  • Many plant-based bodybuilders and fitness models are also ingesting large amounts of both soy products and protein/amino acid supplements/shakes to get closer to “carnivorous” levels of protein each day. Are soy products and supplements better than a piece of grass-fed steak?
  • And considering the growing base of vegan bodybuilders and fitness models … They. Are. All. Using. Drugs. Yes, even the “natural” ones.
  • It’s just as easy to be nutrient-deficient in a vegan diet as it is in a carnivorous diet. You’re just typically deficient in different nutrients. While a carnivore might be deficient in Vitamin A, a vegan might be deficient in Vitamin B12.
  • Vegan diets are necessarily much higher in carbohydrates – this works super well for endurance athletes. On the other hand, endurance athletes do best with a protein intake bordering that of strength athletes because of all the energy they’re expending through training. They’re more likely to use amino acids for energy, so they need to replenish those amino acids through their diet. Do with that information what you will.

Going back to the protein thing (because I’m going to get verbally assaulted if I don’t address this), carnivores probably don’t need nearly as much protein as they think they do (or are currently getting). If you’re eating more than 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, you’re probably eating more than you need to.

On the other hand, most novice plant-based dieters aren’t getting as much as they probably should. If you’re a 150-200 lb person eating 50 grams of protein each day, you’re probably leaving performance on the table, quite literally.

And let’s be clear: there’s a big difference between the protein needs of a competitive athlete and that of your retired grandmother. And the recommended dietary allowance is not synonymous with “optimal for high-level competition.”

But then again, unless high-level competition is in your immediate future, does it even matter?

As has been stated before, there really aren’t any “bad” foods, just bad habits. For instance, many vegans approve of regular alcohol intake. it is vegan, of course. But alcohol can poison you in one night. I’m not sure anybody ever fell victim to “sugar poisoning” after one bad night with Ben and Jerry.

Reverse your thinking

So instead of saying to yourself, “I’m going to switch to a vegan diet to obtain all of the benefits that a vegan diet can provide,” try reversing your thought process.

Ask yourself, “What health benefits does a vegan diet provide and how can I get there?”

Live longer

Eat a diet of mostly plant-based foods, including colorful fruits & vegetables, grains, legumes, and healthy fats. De-stress regularly. Stay active. Maintain relationships. Check this page out.

Avoid gastrointestinal issues & food allergies

Stop eating foods that give you gastrointestinal issues. It will be different for everybody, so you’ll have to experiment a bit. Common food-foes include gluten, lactose, nuts, shellfish, and soy.


Try replacing some of the refined meats and middle-of-the-grocery-store-snack-type foods with colorful fruits and vegetables to your diet.

Higher intake of vitamins and minerals

(See above.)

Possibly protective against certain cancers

(See above.)

Higher antioxidant intake

(See above.)

Protective against cardiovascular disease 

(See above.)

Avoid diabetes

(See above.)

Weight loss

Try being more active during the day and get a few more steps in while also seeing above.

Save animals

Become a full-fledged vegan.

Avoid salmonella

Cook your food.

Avoid E. coli forever

Become vegan.

So what does this all mean?

There are almost endless benefits to plant-based dieting or full-blown veganism. But there’s absolutely no evidence that plant-only diets are best for longevity, performance, or weight loss. Just like diet pills, belly wraps, or that stupid Shake Weight thing, there is no such thing as the magic pill.

But the fitness industry knows that you are looking for it. It knows that you want there to be a quick-fix. You want the magic pill to exist, so that’s what the industry will sell you.

Don’t forget, the industry wants that too. It will refuse to accept that a quick-fix doesn’t exist because if it stops looking and then somebody else finds it, the industry will miss out on all the potential profit.

They know that if a vegan diet promises longevity, improved sport performance, silkier hair, better skin, restful sleep, six-pack abs, and more sex, you’ll buy it. I mean, who wouldn’t buy into a diet if it promised you that you couldn’t get cancer, have a heart attack, or be fat?

And that’s where the issue lies. There are so many benefits to plant-based dieting, veganism is a moral high-ground. And it’s much easier to sell books and speaking engagements when what you’re saying is absolutely, 100%, undeniably true: plants are really good for us, animals, and the environment.


Let’s clear the air, I’m not anti-vegan.

What I’m saying is plants are good. Plant-based diets are awesome. But they don’t necessarily have to mean plant-only. And there might be certain trade-offs that you should research and reconcile before committing to any dietary lifestyle.

Above all, our job here at Josh Mavilia Fitness is to help people improve their health step-by-step. That means guiding our members toward proven and universally agreed-upon principles:

  • Drink lots of water
  • Eat mostly plants
  • Avoid refined foods
  • Sleep
  • Find your personal zone and de-stress on a daily basis
  • Get some protein
  • Make healthier carbohydrate & fat choices

So if you’re somebody looking for a new diet, first evaluate your goals. Like exercise types, cars, and beers, there is something different for everyone out there. And what works for one individual might not necessarily work for another when you consider current lifestyle, goals, and willingness to change. Find your diet, not somebody else’s.

And if you’re a provider, plant-based or otherwise, your job is this: stop pulling so hard in the vegan direction and you won’t push so many people away. It is our job to sell solutions to problems, not books. Eating mostly plants doesn’t work for anyone if people are turned off by your approach altogether.

The Three P’s of Exercise Selection

Life is better with rules. So is exercise.

Rules make things clear. For instance, the NFL’s Catch vs. No-catch Rule has made it super quick and easy to figure out whether a receiver legitimately caught the football (note the subtle sarcastic undertones).

Rules prevent society from breaking out into anarchy. They prevent people from just walking into convenience stores at their leisure and taking whatever items they want. (I’m looking at you, Philadelphia.)

And when it comes to training, rules help guide us in our decision-making.

So without further adieu, I’d like to introduce you to the Three P’s of Exercise Selection.

These rules help guide us in choosing exercises for both ourselves and our members. They help us prioritize what is important during a workout as we make adjustments. Most importantly, they help create consistency in our process.

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Why We Don’t Use Crunches or Sit-ups

To be honest, I don’t get this question very often. I think that, for the most part, crunches have found their way out of current “mainstream” fitness. This is probably because modern fitness is dominated by extreme classes, Instagram experts, and multi-level protein shake marketing. There’s just too much other noise out there.

But I did get this question today, so let’s dive in.

Crunches and sit-ups are both exercise variations used to strengthen the abdominals. Specifically, we’re talking mostly about the “six-pack” abs, the ones that you can see on the outside. (This layer of muscle is called your rectus abdominis.)

These exercises are great when it comes to strengthening the six-pack abs through contraction and hypertrophying the abdominals so that they “pop” when your bodyfat is low enough. Additionally, they can be performed in a variety of positions and on an assortment of machines. They’re even used by popular competitive fitness outlets as parts of workouts.

So why have we chosen to disregard such popular exercises in favor of planks and deadbugs? Let me explain.

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Starvation Mode Explained

So you’ve been dieting for a few months now and lost a few pounds to start with, but now you feel like you’ve plateaued. Now you’re reading about “starvation mode.” You’ve been told that your metabolism is broken and needs to be fixed or reset or something.

Plus, the radio station has been playing these commercials about this new weight loss center that discovers your true metabolism. Sound too good to be true? It probably is.

Weight loss is simple, but it’s not always easy. Here’s what you need to know about starvation mode.

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Thinking About A Detox This January? Read This First.

To cleanse or not to cleanse, that is the annual question. Shouldn’t you rid your body of all the toxins that you’ve built up over the past year?

You’ve probably seen them on social media. Sometimes they’re marketed with specific supplements or food restrictions. Sometimes, you’ll be required to drink certain juices or teas.

And other times you’ll be required to forego all of the extraneous purchases in lieu of a fast.

But what are we trying to cleanse our body of anyway?

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Strategies for Exercise Program Success: Part II

When I first sat down to write the first part of this series about exercise programs and workouts, I didn’t really imagine that I’d have two blog posts worth of ideas. But now here we are.

I think sometimes I program better for my own clients than I do for myself.

I keep things simple, don’t mess around with rep ranges too much, and assign exercises that I know they’ll perform successfully. This seems to yield a steady stream of PRs and positivity.

If you’re looking for the exact blueprint, I don’t have it. (I mean, I sort of do, but it varies widely from person to person.) Programming is both an art and a science: you must make evidence-based decisions while creating a beautiful masterpiece of assorted equipment and movement variation.

It’s like writing a song: you can pretty much do whatever you want, but you still need to use scales and notes and stuff.

And so here I am, again ready to dispense the secrets that help our members experience success. I hope that these concepts work as well for you and your members as they’ve worked for us.

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How Much Does Health Cost?

With health insurance premiums on a steady incline (up about nine-fold since 1960), American families are spending more than they ever have on healthcare.

As we stand right in the middle of open enrollment for 2018, the average unsubsidized individual is paying north of $300 per month for health insurance. Families are paying around $1,000. But that doesn’t include their respective $4,000 and $8,000 deductibles. And while these numbers might make you cringe, these numbers don’t tell the whole story.

Most folks don’t ever reach their deductible. Many people and families are subsidized. So while it’s not uncommon to pay these prices, not everyone does.

Plus, the younger you are, the less preventable many of the costs become. Most 20-somethings aren’t spending their deductibles on cholesterol medications.

But the picture becomes quite clear when we examine the statistics of Medicare.

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Strategies for Exercise Program Success: Part I

To be honest, I sometimes think that I program better for our members than I do for myself.

I keep things simple, don’t mess around with rep ranges too much, and assign exercises that I know they’ll perform successfully. This seems to yield a steady stream of PRs and positivity.

If you’re looking for the exact blueprint, I don’t have it. (I mean, I sort of do, but it varies widely from person to person.) Programming is both an art and a science: you must make evidence-based decisions while creating a beautiful masterpiece of assorted equipment and movement variation.

It’s like writing a song: you can pretty much do whatever you want, but you still need to use scales and notes and stuff.

And so here I am, ready to dispense the great secrets that I believe create massive success for our members. I hope that these concepts work as well for you and your members as they’ve worked for us.

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The #1 Secret to a Deep Squat (So Deep that Everyone will be Jealous)

Okay, so there isn’t one secret. But there sort of is.

This article will be a like a two-piece answer that funnels into a single solution. As in, there is one thing you can do to take your squat from cheap to deep and I will tell you what is it … at the end.

Let’s clear the air first and clarify that if you’re someone with a true mobility limitation in your ankles, knees, hips, or thoracic spine, this article isn’t for you. Some of it might help, but most of it won’t. A true bony or otherwise somewhat-uncorrectable limitation won’t be fixed by the solutions that I recommend at the end of this article.

So here’s the deal: if you’ve performed a deep squat test akin to that of the Functional Movement Screen and you cannot achieve full squat depth despite having a full passive range-of-motion throughout your ankles, knees, hips, and thoracic spine, you don’t have a mobility problem, you have a strength problem.

Let me repeat that just in case you skimmed over it the first time: if you cannot perform a FMS-esque deep squat despite having no structural limitations, you don’t have a mobility problem. You have a strength problem.

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Vegan vs. Plant-based: Which One is for You?

As pro-vegan documentaries continue to permeate your Netflix cue at an ever-rapid pace, this article might be more important than ever (but still less important than it will be by the time I’m done writing this post).

When we built the Josh Mavilia Fitness Pyramid of Nutritional Illustriousness, one of the foundational elements that we included was “plant-based.”

Along with drinking water and stocking your refrigerator and cabinets with minimally-processed food items, we felt that eating mostly plants was an important component of a well-rounded nutritional approach.

Plant-based dieting doesn’t mean you avoid eating animals. It doesn’t mean that you avoid eating animal products like cheese or eggs. It doesn’t mean that you need to buy veggie burgers and other frozen plant-based American foods (like fake meat). Being plant-based simply means that you majority of your food intake comes from plants and plant-based foods.

This is different from being vegan.

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