Relentless, Big Hearts and Big Lifts

Something I don’t talk about enough is Relentless, and I definitely need to share more about this organization. I hold Relentless near and dear to my heart. The kindness and selfless acts that these men and women do are nothing short of amazing. They are a wonderful family! I say family because this group is full of so much love, and the connection with every person runs deep. Every time this group gets together it’s like one giant family reunion, and I say giant because this special group of people are powerlifters. From giant hearts to giant mammoths, the term giant just fits.

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The simplest explanation of what Relentless is/does is it’s an organization of powerlifters that raise money, create awareness, and show support for families with children fighting life threatening illnesses. Truly since conception Relentless has grown into something much larger and grander than anyone ever imagined.
To truly see what Relentless is you need to see where it started. The idea for Relentless was conceived in 2010 when Rev. Garth Heckman was re-diagnosed with cancer. Garth is a powerlifter, and his friend/training partner, Mike Hamilton, contacted Scott Nutter, the President of the Minnesota Chapter of the American Powerlifting Federation, and suggested the idea of turning a powerlifting meet into a benefit to help Garth in his time of need. The meet was a wonderful success, and Garth ended up beating cancer for a second time. He also competed in Relentless 2012. From this first meet other lifter began to show interest, and voice that they would love to do another one. So from there Relentless Minnesota partnered up with HopeKids. From 2012 Relentless has been held in Scottsdale Arizona and Detroit Michigan. Currently it is held twice a year, once in Minnesota and the other in Detroit. Over the years the reach of this organization has grown globally; including awesome places like New Zealand! That’s AMAZING! Even more amazing than that Relentless has collectively raised close to 1.25 million dollars! That’s incredible!
Relentless is truly an all-around awesome organization. I say awesome because everything about this group leaves me in awe; from the selfless acts, the amount of money that has been raised, and of course the tremendous amount of weight that is thrown around on stage. There have been multiple thousand pound squats, eight-hundred – nine-hundred pound benches, and over eight-hundred pound deadlifts! That’s monstrous! I am a lifter in this group, and have put up some large numbers myself, but you always find yourself being a spectator and a cheerleader for everyone participating. It is one of the only sporting events where everyone is cheering everyone on. And you know how you sum this all up in one giant Wow? It’s held in a church! You may ask, “How is this allowed?” It just is. There is screaming, yelling, metal music blaring, nose bleeds, and sweat flying everywhere! Yet, for some reason this is the best possible venue for these events, and it works.


Now the greatest part of this organization and the focal point of this event are the kids; the true warriors and strength heroes of Relentless. They are wonderful, smiling, happy children, and you would never know from the outside that they are going through so much. They fight constantly, yet they sit by the stage cheering, and laughing like a child that hasn’t been through chemo, surgeries, spinal taps, radiation, etc. There have been a few that have won their fight, and continue to be huge supporters and also participants in Relentless. Unfortunately with this fight not everyone wins, and they are recognized as Relentless Angels. Those Angels are: Amber Webb, Austin Valentine, Connor Bint, Lauren LaFonatine, and Mollie Moguin.

Angels
From Relentless many other small fundraising meets for Relentless, and also other non-profit organizations. One of those organizations is Hannah’s Care Packages. What they do is provide families with a bag filled with things that may be needed for a longer stay in the hospital, or for those long weeks of chemotherapy. Typically they fill these care packages with toothbrushes, toothpaste, a blanket, lotion, snacks, maybe a little gift or two for the child, and anything that may be needed. It is a wonderful gift that can make something uncomfortable a little bit easier. Recently I was able to deliver one of those packages to a family in Cary, IL. The Malooley family has a seven month old son that was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma. He has been going through chemotherapy for eight weeks now, and for a child of only seven months he is going through chemo like a champion. Almost every picture you see of him he is smiling and full of joy. It was a tremendous honor to be able to deliver this package to his family.

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Relentless is truly an amazing organization, and I am beyond blessed to be a part of it. The men and women are gearing up for Relentless Minnesota. There is always something of Relentless to get involved in or show your support for. If you are interested in making donations to the lifter’s pages please contact me, and I will share the link for their pages. Also, there is benefit for McKai on May 14th.

McKai benefit

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Blackened Tilapia with Coconut Rice

As Chefs we all have our specialties and our favorite dishes to cook. Two of my favorite styles of cooking are Cajun and Creole. I love the culture behind  the two styles, and most of all I love the flavor. Now one of my favorite ways to cook fish is blackening. Blackening is when you mix spices and herbs, and sear them in an extra hot pan. Blackened food tend to be on the spicy side, which I love, but you can make a more mild version if you are sensitive to heat. Enjoy this recipe, the spicy fish and the sweet rice pair nicely!

Iron Chef’s Blackening Seasoning

1 c. Paprika
1/3 c. Onion Powder
1/3 c. garlic powder
¼ c. Cayenne Pepper
1/3 c. Chili Powder
4 tbsp. Uncle Brian’s Dried Hell
¼ c. oregano
¼ c. basil
1/8 c. thyme

1 Tbsp Iron Chef’s Blackening Mix
4 oz Tilapia Filet

Procedure:
Heat up iron skillet on high heat. Mix all ingredients together. Grab a sheet of wax paper, and pour some of the mix on the wax paper. Take tilapia filet and coat it completely. There should be no part of the fish showing. Your skillet should be hot, almost smoking. Lay fish in the skillet; it will smoke. Let it cook for about five minutes or so. Flip fish, and finish cooking it thoroughly. Both sides should be redish, with a solid black char. Now this recipe is nice and spicy; if you are a little sensitive to spice cut the cayenne in half.

2 c. Cooked Basmati Rice
¼ c. Coconut Milk
1 tbsp Honey
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp Cayenne Pepper
3 tbsp Toasted Coconut

Procedure:
In a medium bowl mix rice, coconut milk honey, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper. Sprinkle toasted coconut over rice. Makes seven meals.

 

 

Italian Herb Pork Chops with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce and Grilled Sweet Potato Fries

For this dish I really was in the mood for Italian flavors. I grew up in a Sicilian/Italian family so I loooovvveeee Italian food. The Pork chops are juicy, and the seasonings are delicious! The red pepper sauce was a nice fresh touch, with a little bit of heat. It pairs nicely with the pork chops. The flavor is very similar to marinara sauce, with the smokey flavor from the roasted red peppers. The fries were a nice healthy touch to the dish. I think you will find grilled fries are as enjoyable as fried sweet potato fries. The coconut oil adds a nice flavor that pairs well with the sweetness of the potato. Enjoy this recipe, my family definitely did!

Macros: Calories: 446, Protein: 52 Grams Carbs: 27 grams, Fats: 18 Grams

2 – 4oz Thin sliced Pork Chop
1.5 tsp Basil
1 tsp paprika
1.5 tsp garlic powder

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
4 Roasted Red Peppers
6 oz yellow onion, medium diced
¼ c. fresh minced garlic
½ c. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 cup water
1 tbsp basil
1 tbsp Paprika
1 tsp Crushed Red Pepper
½ tsp olive oil

Garlic Sweet Potato Fries

1 Sweet Potato cut into 6ths
½ tbsp. coconut oil
1.5 tbsp Basil
1.5 tbsp Garlic powder
1 tbsp paprika

Procedure:
Mix dry ingredients. Sprinkle ingredients evenly over both sides of the pork chop. Heat a non-stick saute pan on high heat. Once pan is nice and hot place pork chop in the pan. Sear both sides of the meat. Turn heat down to medium/low heat to finish cooking. If you have a meat thermometer cook the meat to 155˚F.

For red pepper sauce get a medium sauce pan. Heat pan on medium/high heat. When pan is hot pour olive oil in; let it heat up. Drop onions into the pan, and let caramelize. Once caramelized add garlic; let cook until garlic becomes aromatic. Add red peppers, paprika, and crushed red pepper. Let ingredients cook for 30 seconds. Deglaze pan with lemon juice and water. Bring to a boil. Once boiling take everything, and pour it into a blender, or use an immersion blender to blend completely. Sauce should be smooth and velvety.

For sweet potatoes cut them up into six pieces long ways. Heat oven to 425˚F, and heat grill or grill pan on high. Coat sweet potatoes in coconut oil; once coated toss them with spices. When grill or grill pan are nice and hot place sweet potatoes on the grill. Heat potatoes long enough to get grill marks on them. Grill all three sides. Once done grilling put them on a pan, and place in the oven to finish cooking.

Smoked Mojo Pork with Red Curry Sweet Potatoes

Now, this was a fun recipe. I love smoked pork, it’s without a doubt my favorite way to do BBQ. On top of that I love Cuban Mojo (MOH-hoh). If you’ve ever had a Cuban sandwich you know what I’m talking about. The spice with the citrus, and the smokey flavor, YUM! It doesn’t get much better. Obviously the downfall to a lot of this delicious food is the sodium, the sugar, and the fat. *Sad Trombone* So as the round 2 of my quest for BBQ and healthy, low fat, low sodium food I have come up with the new version. It turned out delicious! Even without the uber amounts of salt, and a leaner cut of pork, it was mighty tasty! This one had the boys and girls of Monster Garage Gym salivating. So this recipe is a winner! Macros for this meal minus the broccoli: Calories – 343, Protein: 42 grams,  Carbs: 27 grams, Fats: 16 grams

Mojo (MOH-hoh) Marinade:
1 1/2 cups fresh orange juice
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup fresh oregano, coarsely chopped
10 garlic cloves, minced
3 jalapeños, sliced into rounds

3 Pounds Country Style Pork Ribs

Low Sodium BBQ Sauce
1 tsp Olive Oil
1 cup minced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups Sodium free beef stock
3 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
3/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons hickory-flavored liquid smoke
BBQ Sauce (cont.)
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 tbsp Honey
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cayenne

Sweet Potatoes:
1 tsp olive oil
5 Large Sweet Potatoes medium dice
1 tbsp cinnamon
2 tbsp red curry

Procedure:
First step is to mix up the ingredients for the mojo. For the jalapenos don’t worry about making nice cuts. They are just in there for flavor. Take pork ribs and submerge them into the mojo. Let them marinate for four hours. After pork ribs have sat in the marinade for four hours take them out. Now, for smoking I have a NordicWare Stovetop smoker (convenient for me, sorry), but if you don’t have a smoker don’t panic there are ways to make a makeshift smoker. Easiest way would be to use a grill. Only light half of the grill, and place smoking chips wrapped in aluminum foil on the lit side. Place the ribs on the un-lit side of the grill. Set your heat to only reach 150˚F. You are going to leave the ribs to smoke for 4 – 5 hours.

While the pork is smoking gather ingredients for the BBQ Sauce. Heat up a medium sauce pan on medium heat. Pour 1 teaspoon of olive oil in the pan, and let heat up. Throw onions in the pot and let caramelize, stirring very little (the more you stir the less the onions will caramelize). Once onions have caramelized add garlic, and cook until it becomes aromatic. Deglaze pan with beef stock. Add tomato paste, Worcestershire, Dijon, vinegar, and smoke flavor. Bring to a boil. Once boiling bring it down to a slow simmer, and add remaining ingredients. Let reduce by a quarter or until desired thickness. Allow to cool before serving.

For sweet potatoes place all ingredients in a bowl, and mix until sweet potatoes are evenly coated with spices. Preheat oven to 425˚F. Place sweet potatoes on a baking sheet, and place in the oven. Cook until potatoes are crisp on the outside and soft to the touch.

 

BBQ Rubbed Chicken

One of my favorite things to eat is BBQ, ribs, chicken, pulled pork, beef, you name it BBQ! I love it! So in cleaning up my diet I have realized BBQ is not all that clean. So I am making an effort to take something that I love, and making it healthy.So for this first recipe I’ve come up with a low sodium, low fat, bbq chicken. It is spicy and delicious! Enjoy!

10 oz. Chicken Breast
Dry Rub:
½ C. Paprika                                Basting Liquid:
1 tbsp. black pepper                    2 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. Chili Powder                    ½ c. Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. onions powder
1 tbsp. cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper

Calories: 300    Protein: 60 grams  Carbs: 0   Fats: 7 grams
Procedure:
Pre-heat oven to 425˚F. Mix dry rub in a small bowl, and put off to the side. Take a zip lock bag and pour dry rub in the bag. Take your chicken breast and put it in the bag. Give it a shake, covering the chicken completely with the rub. Put chicken breast on a baking sheet. Put chicken in the oven to roast. While chicken is cooking mix up the basting liquid. Every 3 minutes or so brush liquid on the chicken. Depending on how thick the chicken is it should take about 12 minutes to cook thoroughly.

Blackstone Labs, Dust V2

 

Blackstone Labs

Dust V2

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Ingredients:

Beta Alanine, L-Taurine, L-Carnitine Tartrate, Citrulline Malate 2:1, N-Acetyl-L Tyrosine, Velvet Bean Extract, Betaine Anhydrous, Agmatine Sulfate, L-Norvaline, Di-Caffeine Malate, Caffeine Anhydrous, Hordenine, N-Methyl Tyramine, ArcoFueltm (Acrecoline Hydromide 98%), MaxxEndure XTtm (Stearoyl Vanillylamide 98%), Noopept, Yohimbine Bark (Std 10%)

Blackstone labs have been around for a couple of years now. Their original pre-workout supplement when they hit the market was “Angel Dust”. Since conception they have updated their formula, and now we see Dust V2. If you compare the two products side by side they seem similar, but there are some significant differences. The original Angel Dust formula was made with Creatine Monohydrate, a different type of caffeine, and green tea extract. They dropped those compounds, and added newer, better compounds in an effort to design a pre-workout to benefit muscle endurance, and recovery.

I have been taking this product for two weeks now. I ditched my pre-workout with creatine for this product. Since starting V2 my workouts have been great! It takes much longer for my muscle to fatigue, I have long lasting pumps, and vascularity is insane. Also cutting the creatine has left my body looking leaner, and less bloated.  I have tried other products with similar formulas, but none have had this same effect. If you are looking for a solid pre-workout with out creatine this is definitely one to try.

Fluctuation, “The Rise and Fall of the Numbers”

 

When I began training for powerlifting I was around 230 pounds. I was fit, strong as hell, and still had a lean waist line. My goals when I started was to get stronger, and to get huge. I didn’t want to be fat, but I wasn’t concerned with being overly lean. I wasn’t trying to be a bodybuilder so a few extra inches of fat didn’t bother me.

I competed in 2011 in my first powerlifting competition at 258. From there my weight continued to go up. I was stuffing my face to get as big as I could get. You can see in the pictures I went from being a medium/large person, to a large person with a considerable sized gut. Don’t get me wrong, I was strong as hell, and happy about it, but I was far from being healthy. I was constantly out of breath during training, it sounded like I was snoring just breathing, and my sleep apnea was out of control. I would doze off standing up, or even worse while I was driving. I nearly died several times falling asleep at the wheel. I actually had a couple small accidents because I would doze off at the wheel. I let this go on for far too long; my mother and father on numerous occasions told me, “you have a problem, and you need to get this checked out.” I finally decided to have it checked out when my coach/mentor, Eric Maroscher sat me down, and told me, “Would you like to live or die? Because the rate you’re going, you’re going to have some major issues.” So I made an appointment with the specialist, and had my sleep study. My sleep apnea was so severe. The doctor told me with the lack of oxygen I should have already been brain dead. In a minute I was averaging 90 apneas a minute, which basically means for a minute I wasn’t breathing. My O2 levels dropped from 96% to 46% while I was “sleeping”.  Talk about a wakeup call. The doctor set me up with my cpap machine, and I began to have the best sleep of my life. Later I’ll talk about the benefits of “real” sleep, and how much we need it.

At the time I was working for the LifeCafe at the Vernon Hills Lifetime. Now at the LifeCafe the motto is, “If it’s here, it’s healthy”, which is very true. LifeCafe has done a wonderful job of changing what used to be a place to get a soda and a sandwich, into a restaurant that caters to your health and fitness needs. They only make and sell food that is organic, non-gmo, and incredibly good for you. So now paired with proper sleep I was slowly able to start tightening up my diet. I went from 300 pounds to 255 pounds in just a couple of months. Shortly after my weight loss I started working a ton, and also planning a wedding with my fiance`; so training took a back seat. So my numbers dropped quite a bit.

Shortly after my wedding I began training again, and I left the LifeCafe. So my diet went to shit, and in a hurry. I ballooned up from 255 to 275, and then after competition to 280. My diet was off the rails, and I started going back to my old mentality. My breathing started becoming a problem again, my sleep went down, and my numbers were not going up. My goal is to compete in the Arnold Classic XPC Meet in 2017, and to achieve this goal I needed to make a change. So three weeks ago I decided to hit the “books”, and study up on how to dial in my diet, and training.  Since then I went from a large, chubby 280 pounder to a lean 260 pounder. My body fat went from around 28% to 19% currently, and my waist went from a 46 inches to 40 inches. That’s huge! My road to the “Arnold” started today, and my journey with dieting still continues. I will continue to post progress as I go along. Until next time; Happy eating, happy lifting