What’s More Important, Losing Weight or Adding Muscle?

I overheard a question the other day.

“What’s more important, losing weight or adding muscle?”


If I know one thing, it’s that there is a ton of information out there. Some of it good and helpful, but much of it pretty crummy and confusing. This question is an opportunity to hopefully sort some of that out.

Obviously this question is very general, so I’m going to put some parameters on it. We’re going to assume the following:

  • The person’s overall goal is weight loss for general reasons such as overall health and appearance
  • The person is generally healthy, meaning no serious injuries or illnesses
  • The person does not have a long history with intense resistance training

Also, it’s important to understand that when we say adding muscle, we are NOT talking about becoming a huge bodybuilder. We are talking about adding some lean body, and if you want more definition to your body YOU MUST ADD LEAN BODY!! The assumption with someone with these goals is that as you add lean body you are also decreasing body fat, thereby making you smaller. Take a look at this picture if you need a little clarification on that.

Muscle is denser than fat making the same weight much smaller!

OK. Let’s start with this.

Adding muscle and losing fat are done mostly with two different processes. Losing fat is done largely with diet and adding muscle is done largely in the gym. Now this doesn’t mean that the gym and diet aren’t involved with both to varying degrees, but for the most part losing fat is done with diet and adding muscle is done in the gym.

What does that mean? Well, it means that these things are not necessarily mutually exclusive. You can do both, to some extent. Note that the person we’re talking about does not have a long history with intense resistance training.

At home you can work on your diet and in the gym you can exercise with purpose and intensity and try hard to get stronger. Both of these things should be done if you’re trying to lose weight.

As to which is more important this is a tougher question. Here’s the thing, when you are trying to lose weight it would still be very helpful to include resistance training in your routine. Although you might not have a goal to build muscle per se, this can be a big help in a couple of different ways:

  1. More muscle means a higher metabolism. This means that instead of our metabolism slowing down as we lose weight (which it will) the muscle allows it to stay as high as possible which makes it easier and more manageable to either continue with weight loss or maintain it.
  2. More muscle gives us better nutrient partitioning. This is the process where your body decides what to do with the food you’re eating. The more muscle you have and the more resistance training you do, the more your body will take that food and use it to maintain and build muscle as opposed to adding fat.

What does this all mean when it comes to the original question?

“What’s more important, losing weight or adding muscle?”

Well, here is my answer:

I think that whatever your goal is, that is what’s most important. If you want to lose weight, then that is most important (by the way, figuring out WHY you want to lose weight is a huge key to this whole thing). Having said that, adding muscle would be a huge advantage to this whole process, especially in the long term.

I hope this gets you thinking a little differently about what you’re doing. Please let me know if you have any questions about how to make this all work for you.


Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, PN Level 2 Lean Eating Coach, FMS
Castro Valley Fitness
2861 Grove Way


Do Carbs Make You Fat?

I help one of our members who runs a preschool with the wellness program for her employees. I received a question from one of them that, I think, is a common source of confusion for many people. Here it is, along with my answer.

If you’re trying to lose weight as an older woman should you eat carbs at dinner or only have protein and vegetables? Also, is whole wheat making us fat? Should we avoid it to be slim?

This is a very common question and one that creates a lot of confusion for many people.

First I want to go over some basic facts.

  1. Weight loss is determined by calories. In other words, to lose weight you must eat fewer calories than you burn.
  2. Many studies have shown that the macronutrient (carbs, proteins and fats) makeup of someone’s diet doesn’t really matter for weight loss.
  3. It really doesn’t matter when you eat  for weight loss. The only thing that matters is calorie intake. In other words having carbs at breakfast or dinner makes no difference.

In other words eating carbs at dinner is perfectly fine as long as the overall amount of calories you are taking in is less than what you are burning.

Having said that, cutting down on carbs can be a perfectly legitimate and simple way to achieve the caloric deficit necessary for weight loss. The main issue with this, however, is that a low carb approach can be difficult to sustain for people. In fact, many studies have shown that people who resort to low carb diets don’t stay on them for very long, even if they have success with the diet!

My opinion is always that the most important thing to consider when dieting is sustainability. Simply put, you should not go on any diet that you can’t see yourself on for a long time. That is the only way to truly achieve and sustain weight loss.

Lastly, whole wheat is not making us fat unless it’s eaten at a caloric surplus. Really, any food eaten at a surplus will make us gain weight.

Mitch Rothbardt, PN Level 2 Lean Eating Coach
Castro Valley Fitness
2861 Grove Way in Castro Valley

2 Things You Might Not Realize About Weight Loss

Hello! I hope you’re having a great day. I’m going to make this one pretty short today so let ‘s get started.

When it comes to losing weight I’ve found that there are a few things that typically get people’s way. Let’s talk about two of them.

1 – It’s not about the food. I can feel your eyes glazing over right now. “What do you mean?” you’re asking. “Aren’t you the one who’s always saying that losing weight is all about the nutrition?” Well yes, but let me explain. You don’t need me to tell you to eat your vegetables, right? You don’t need me to tell you that an apple is healthier than a candy bar, right? At least 5 times a week I hear some version of “I know what to do but I just can’t do it.” We all know what we need to know about nutrition. It’s really very simple. The issue is what is getting in our way of doing it.

Creating Healthy Lives

You don’t need me to tell you to eat this

2 – The most important skill for weight loss is emotional regulation. The truth is that the real reason most people can’t do what they know they should do has to do with emotions. When we’re emotional that’s when we have trouble making the decisions we know, deep down, that we should make.

I hope this helps clear some things up for you. I know this is tough. If it does help, I want to let you know about a program we are starting up. It’s a nutrition program that we’ve put together that we believe covers what REALLY MATTERS about weight loss. (remember it’s not about the food!) Its starts up on the 24th and you can get all the information right here:

Creating Healthy Nutrition 

Please let me know if you have any questions. Have a great day!

Mitch Rothbardt



I Know What To Do But I Just Can’t Do It

I heard it again today. “I know what to do but I just can’t do it.”

If I’ve heard this once I’ve heard it a thousand (million) times.

I know what to do but I just can’t do it.

At Castro Valley Fitness we believe that, for the most part, people know just about everything they need to know about nutrition. You don’t need me to tell you that an apple is healthier than a candy bar and that you should eat your vegetables, right?

You may be asking yourself, if people know all they need to know, then what’s the problem?

Well, that’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? If we answer that, we can pretty much solve everyone’s food issues, right? The problem is that this isn’t as easy as it sounds.

It requires work that really has very little to do with food itself.

It requires an approach that is both honest and unemotional. Both of these qualities tend to get lost when we think about how and why we eat.

Let me give you a few things that have worked for some of our members when they’ve been tying to figure some things out.

  • Slow down. Sometimes I’ll ask someone how fast they eat. Usually they just laugh. Slowing down allows your stomach to let your brain know it’s full. That can take 10-15 minutes. How much food can you eat in that time? It also gets you out of GO-GO-GO-GO mode which is when so many of us wind up eating whatever is easy and fast. That’s not usually conducive to making good decisions.
  • Keep a journal. Just reading that might have given you a chill.
    Holiday Season

    An actual person when asked to keep a food journal.

    If it did frighten you, you should ask yourself why. You just might figure out something that’s been holding you back. Journaling keeps us honest and accountable. It also can reveal things that we didn’t know. You might not have realized how much you actually snack in a given day, for instance.

  • Aim for progress not perfection. One of the biggest problems I see is all-or-nothing thinking. This is when people think that one slight slip counteracts all the good they’ve done or they feel like they the “perfect” plan to get started. The truth is that there is no such thing as perfect. No perfect diet or perfect workout. The closest thing we have to perfection is in this picture right here.

    The Closest Thing To Perfection

                      All we need to aim for is progress in whatever form it takes.

Listen, we all have crazy lives. Kids, work, family. We sit in traffic for hours each week. The more we can figure out the REAL issues behind our diet the better off we will be.

Let me know what you think. Have a great day!

Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, PN Level 2 Lean Eating Coach, FMS
Castro Valley Fitness
2861 Grove Way in Castro Valley

4 Ways To Feel Good About Your Diet

We know that feeling good about what you’re doing can make a HUGE difference when it comes to doing it. We also know that consistency over time is the absolute key to making your diet work for you.

In todays video let’s talk about 4 ways you can actually feel good about what you’re doing with your diet instead of angry and resentful.

Mitch Rothbardt
Castro Valley Fitness
2861 Grove Way

Are You Hungry? Deciphering the Clues for Weight Loss.

Don’t let them lie to you. You will be hungry if you are trying to lose weight. The thing is that it might not be physical hunger you feel. How you deal with this the the ABSOLUTE KEY to your weight loss journey.

In this video I go over:
– The 4 different kinds of hunger
– How to figure out which one you are experiencing
– How to deal with it so that you can reach your goal

Let me know what you think!

Mitch Rothbardt
Castro Valley Fitness

5 Ways To Combat Emotional Eating

If I had to pick one thing that it seems gets in people’s way the most when it comes to their diet, it is definitely emotional eating. You can call it stress eating, too. I found a great definition of emotional eating at medicinenet.com. It says:

“Emotional Eating is the practice of consuming large quantities of food — usually “comfort” or junk foods — in response to feelings instead of hunger. Experts estimate that 75% of overeating is caused by emotions.”

I don’t want to get super deep today but I do want you to notice the last sentence of that definition:

“Experts estimate that 75% of overeating is caused by emotions.”

emotional eating

I’ve said many times that emotional regulation is actually the most important part of weight loss.

What I’d like to do today is just give you a few different strategies you can use when you feel like the emotional and stress eating bug is about to bite you.

  1. Know that you are not alone. I’ve talked to many people that swear that they are the only ones who have this problem and that everyone else has it all together. Let me assure you, this is not the case. This is a huge issue for so many people. I refer again to the above sentence: “Experts estimate that 75% of overeating is caused by emotions.”
  2. Where does this happen? Try to figure out where these issues occur and get your trigger foods out of there. The old rule is this: If it’s there, you will eventually eat it.
  3. Be honest and prepare. A common version of this is when your schedule just gets in the way and you wind up eating whatever is easy and quick instead of something healthy and nourishing. Take an honest look at your schedule, figure out when eating good meals will be a problem and take some time to make something healthy that will be ready for you.
  4. Take a step back. I know this is hard. If it wasn’t this wouldn’t be a problem in the first place. Having said that, if you don’t take a step back when things are going a little crazy this is just not going to get better. I know that emotional eating feels good when you’re doing it. That’s why people do it. I also know that most people don’t feel very good physically or emotionally when they’re done.
  5. Understand that it’s OK. One piece of cake or one bowl of ice cream is never the reason someone is overweight. Just like one apple or piece of broccoli is never the reason someone is in shape. The worst thing about emotional eating is that for some people it triggers a whole host of negativity. These thoughts usually go something like, “I just blew it. I might as well eat the rest of the carton” or “I knew it. I can’t do this. I might as well give up.” No, emotional eating isn’t good, but it’s understandable. What’s a whole lot worse is letting one episode extend to an emotional black hole that takes days or weeks to escape from.

emotional eating

I know that this is a pretty simplistic view of this. I also know that this is incredibly hard for so many people (again, you are not alone). I just want to try and get you thinking a little bit about some ways that you might be able to combat this a little bit. Also, I want you to notice that I didn’t say defeat this or beat it.

It is incredibly important that you understand that this is a process. This is not about winning or losing, it’s about getting better. I know that doesn’t sound nearly as sexy as “Lose 20 Pounds In 4 Weeks” but getting your mind around this process is the only way to make this really work in a way to make your life better, and that’s what we are all really looking for. Right?

Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, PN Level 2 Lean Eating Coach, FMS
Castro Valley Fitness at 2861 Grove Way
We Help People Discover Their Strength

Fitness Starter Pack: Nutrition

Every day at Castro Valley Fitness we talk to our members and many times the conversations are about the same types of things. We have certain foundational beliefs at our gym and we’ve seen the truths of those things play out time and again over the years and with hundreds of our members.

I thought I’d do a series on these things so that maybe we can help you understand what our foundational beliefs are when it comes to fitness and nutrition.

Last time we talked about Posture and Pain. (Click if you missed it.)

Today I want to talk about nutrition.

Let’s face it. Nutriton can be hard. Now when I say that, what I mean is that nutrition is actually pretty easy.

I know that doesn’t seem to make much sense. This is what I mean and here is where our foundational beliefs about it come in.

  1. Nutrition is, and should be, simple.
  2. People, for the most part, already know what they need to know about nutrition and what they should do.
  3. Figuring out why they aren’t doing those things is the real issue.

Again, what am I talking about?

Let me ask you a couple of questions.

  1. What’s healthier? An apple or a candy bar?
  2. Should you eat fruits and vegetables?

I’m guessing you know the answers to those questions. Let me tell you that if you do, you really do know most of what you need to know about nutrition. It really is that simple.


What’s more, it should be! After all, if something is simple that makes it more sustainable, and sustainability is the number one thing we should be looking at when it comes to nutrition. That’s why crazy fad diets never work long-term. They’re unsustainable.

As for our second point, it’s rare that when I talk to one of our members about their nutrition they don’t have a pretty good idea of what they need to work on. Most of the time it’s just a matter of figuring out a plan that can work sustainably within their life. An easy example is when someone has trouble eating healthy dinners because of a crazy schedule. Many times taking a little food prep time over the weekend can improve that issue so that there is something easy and healthy to eat when someone gets home after a busy day.

Going through that process is point number three and where the real gold is. Once someone figures out their roadblocks things can just start rolling in the right direction.

Why do people have so much trouble figuring out their roadblocks? There are lots of reasons but I think the main one is all-or-nothing thinking. There are lots of versions of this but one version of it is when someone looks for what they consider the “perfect” plan. What usually happens is that people spend so much time looking for that perfect plan that they wind up doing nothing. Let me assure you of this:

There is no perfect plan.

Really, there is no perfect anything. There is no perfect workout, either.

The closest thing we have to perfection on this earth is in this picture right here:

True Perfection!

We always talk about “Progress, Not Perfection” and that really is the most important thing. As long as you are making progress you are on the right track, so KEEP GOING! Pick something to do and just do it.

OK. So let’s put it simply. Our foundational beliefs when it comes to nutrition are:

  1. Just about everyone knows what they need to know for the most part. Even if they don’t realize it.
  2. Most people’s nutritional problems are about figuring out why they have trouble doing what they know they should be doing.
  3. Sustainability is the key to long-term success. Not restrictive fad diets.
  4. Cottage cheese is awesome.

Inexpensive. High quality pure protein. Easy to prepare. Versatile. Delicious!


I hope this helps. I understand how confusing this can all be, but keep in mind that simplicity and sustainability are what really matters.

Let me know how I can help!

Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, PN Level 2 Lean Eating Coach, FMS
Castro Valley Fitness
2861 Grove Way







My Top 16 Post-Thanksgiving Leftover Thoughts

Hello everyone! Most of the time in my posts I cover a specific topic. I’m always thinking about fitness and training and I like to write about what I’m seeing and thinking about with our members and everyone else, too! Every once in a while my mind gets a little jumbled with lots of thoughts and in those cases I like to ramble a little bit. Today is one of those days, so here are My Top 16 Post-Thanksgiving Fitness Leftovers Thoughts.

  1. If you have pain and aren’t taking what you’re learning in the gym, movement-wise, and applying it to your life outside the gym you are missing a HUGE AND NECESSARY piece of the puzzle.
  2. If you have pain and you aren’t learning proper movement patterns inside the gym, you need to find a different gym.
  3. Without consistency you really don’t really have much of a chance to reach any meaningful goal or achieve any meaningful results.
  4. No matter your goals, you should have some strength training in your exercise program. That includes all the runners out there! 
  5. If you have shoulder pain you have to address your posture and breathing patterns if you ever want lasting relief.
  6. When strength training you simply have to push yourself. The last few reps of your set should be challenging. It’s not a punishment to add more weight! It’s the price you pay for being awesome!!! 
  7. You know what you need to do with your diet. You’ve got to honestly and unemotionally look at the reasons you’re not doing it.
  8. To the Moms out there. If you don’t take some time for yourself you will never be truly happy. P.S. Your husband and kids want that for you, too!!
  9. If your exercise program includes only pushups, squats, planks and brisk walks you’ll be doing much better than the vast majority of people.
  10. As hard as it may be sometimes, acting like you think a reasonable adult would act will generally move you in the right direction.
  11. Most people are much stronger than they think. They have to get a little comfortable with that fact and feeling.
  12. Don’t overreact to every little tweak you feel. Most of them don’t mean much.
  13. When it comes to nutrition questions either eating slower, eating more protein and/or eating more vegetables is usually a decent answer.
  14. Back pain is almost never about your back.
  15. Being too flexible is just as bad, if not worse, than being too stiff.
  16. If you properly train for strength you will improve your cardiovascular health and flexibility as a result. Just doing cardio and stretching will not improve your strength, though.

I hope a few of these resonated with you a little bit. If so, I’d love to hear how! Just send me an email, call or text.

Have a great day!

Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, PN Level 2 Lean Eating Coach, FMS
Castro Valley Fitness
2861 Grove Way
Discover Your Strength!


What’s your “thing” about food?

I was having a conversation last night. It was with a man who is about 60 years old and in pretty decent shape. He might have some weight to lose but nothing crazy. He has a physical job which helps keep him in decent shape. At one point he asked me about nutrition. He asked me in different words, but it’s a question I hear some version of all the time:

What is your “thing” about food?

You see, there are approximately 1,000,000,000,000 different “things” about food out there.

  • Low-carb
  • Keto
  • Paleo
  • South Beach
  • Cleanses
  • Vegan
  • Vegetarian
  • Weight Watchers
  • Raw
  • Detox
  • No Fruit
  • All Fruit
  • Liquid Diets
  • HCG
  • Blood Type Diet
  • Intermittent Fasting
  • a s**t ton more

The list goes on and on and on and will only stop when the weight-loss industry is no longer the multi-billion dollar monstrosity it currently is.

Well, what are you supposed to make of all this and what about the original question:

What is your “thing” about food?

Let me first say this. One of the things that bothers me most about all this is that there are people who profit greatly from making this all seem very confusing. It shouldn’t be. In fact the simpler it is, the better the chance it will actually work. Please remember that the next time you want to try out a diet that has you taking periodic lab tests to let you know if it’s safe to eat tomatoes this month.

What I’d like to do today is give some basic strategies on which you can build your nutrition program. In other words I’m going to let you know what my “thing” about food is.

Let’s get started.

You ready?

This is going to be pretty deep.

Get ready for some knowledge bombs!!

You should do some jumping jacks to warm up for this.


Here we go.

I’m excited!!

In 3…


1 and 1/2…




Your diet should be comprised mainly of high-quality nutrient dense foods. That means lean protein, fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and an appropriate amount of starches.


No seriously, that’s it.

I mean it.


Yeah, nothing about carbs giving you cancer or everything but carbs giving you cancer or insulin blowing you up or nightshades or only eating organic kale or taking my super-special raspberry ketone coffee bean supplements for only $49.99 a week or not eating anything that was made more than 4.5 miles from your house or blah blah blah blah blah…..

That’s all I have. Sorry.

I know that just writing this:

“Your diet should be comprised mainly of high-quality nutrient dense foods. That means lean protein, fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and an appropriate amount of starches”

isn’t going to fill up a book that rockets to the top of the best-seller lists but it’s all I have.

I can see you’re a little disappointed.

I kind of feel bad, now.

OK. Let me explain.

Let’s start here. In 2014 an Journal of the American Medical Association study showed that any diet works. High carb, low carb and everything in between. You can read about it here:


In case you don’t feel like reading it, the key finding is this:

“In an analysis of data from nearly 50 trials including about 7,300 individuals, significant weight loss was observed with any low-carbohydrate or low-fat diet, with weight loss differences between diet programs small, findings that support the practice of recommending any diet that a patient will adhere to in order to lose weight.”

In other words, any diet that a person will stick to can work.

We are all different. We like different foods, we have different schedules, we have different lifestyles, we have different priorities, we have different food sensitivities, we have different goals, etc. Given all of this, there can’t be one “magic” diet that will fix everyone.

Billy has a schedule that allows for him to eat six meals a day. Lucinda works at a job that doesn’t allow her to take 3 or 4 breaks each day so all she can do is lunch. Harvey is severely lactose intolerant so any dairy is out of the question, but Josephine loves her cottage cheese each night. Which diet is correct? All of them!

Let me give you a few quick guidelines to think about when putting together your nutrition plan.

  1. It’s all about you! As I said before it all works but you have to find out what works best for you. Look at the foods you like, how different foods make you feel, your schedule, your goals and needs, and very importantly, your willingness to do it! If you don’t want to go low-carb, please don’t! You don’t have to. Remember that everything works as long as you apply it!
  2. Consistency is everything. Everything does work, but only if you do it consistently. In this case we’re looking at about 85%. In other words count all the meals you eat in a week. Include every single one, snacks and all. 85% of those should be according to your plan.
  3. Beware of diets that demonize food. Let me say this in as straightforward a way as I can. You can be perfectly healthy eating meat, carbs and dairy. You can also be perfectly healthy NOT eating meat, carbs and dairy. Or any combination of the three. Any diet that tells you that any one type of food is bad for everyone or one type of food is good for everyone is probably a diet that uses itself as more of a religion that a sustainable diet. Of course, if that works for you in a successful and sustainable way, then GREAT! Keeping doing it! Just know that it doesn’t necessarily work that way for everyone else.
  4. Think long-term. What good is a diet that loses you fifteen pounds in three weeks if you put that fifteen pounds back on in the next three weeks? If you can’t see yourself sticking with a diet (or at least a pretty close version of it) for a long time, you are setting yourself up for failure.
  5. Know what success is. When losing weight, 1-2 pounds a weeks is what you’re looking for. I know it doesn’t sound sexy but this is what will work long-term and, most importantly, losing weight this way will allow you to keep it off more successfully. There are all sorts of physiological reasons for this that I don’t want to get into here.
  6. Nuts and bolts. If you’re eating high-quality nutrient dense foods, your plate should look something like this. This doesn’t mean this is exactly perfect for everyone, but if you start here and make whatever personal adjustments you need using the guidelines above, you’ll be on the right track. 

This all may seem pretty simple but remember what I said before. It should be. The simpler it is, the easier it will be to stick to and THAT is what truly matters. Not whether your blood type determines you should eat zuchinni or not.

Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, PN Level 2 Lean Eating Coach
Castro Valley Fitness
2861 Grove Way in Castro Valley