Here’s round 3 of my random thoughts from Saudi…I’ve got 1 or 2 more of these coming. For this one, I’d like to focus a bit on nutrition.

Regardless of where I’ve trained clients in the world (Sorry, I just think it’s cool that I can now say I’ve personally trained clients in multiple parts of the world), the dirty 4-letter word that starts with ‘F’ is always a top priority for me. FOOD.

Ideally, you need three aspects dialed in to help you reach your fitness-related goals; 1) proper mindset, 2) proper exercise, 3) proper nutrition. Sure, you can improve if you only implement two of these, but having all three rolling is optimal. Having a motivated and focused mindset is king…without it, you won’t reach your goals. Have your mindset dialed in and your body will follow. I would say that the nutrition piece is next in the order of importance…you can’t out-train a bad diet. I’ve seen it with too many clients…we get their exercise program clicking yet the results aren’t coming. Why? They are typically sabotaging their hard work in the gym with poor nutrition decisions outside of the gym. It drives me crazy! Why work so hard in the gym and invest all that time and money for training…only to go and swing by the local fast food drive-thru for lunch the next day?! It honestly makes zero sense to me! Stop wasting your time and ruining your workouts. I partly blame myself because I’m clearly not communicating the message effectively. Ultimately, however, people need to be responsible for their actions.


It’s become clear quite quickly that folks here in Saudi face many of the same nutritional issues and challenges that we face back in the states…

  • Too much work
  • Not enough time
  • Don’t know how to eat “healthy”
  • Confused by all the conflicting information out there (paralysis by analysis)

Any of these sound familiar?

For many wealthy folks out here they even have less excuses than people back home. Many of these clients have personal chefs at their homes to prepare their meals…they simply need to tell them what to cook and it’s taken care of. Can you imagine?! Heaven! Anyway…this has made things much easier for me here…I’ve simply created some meal plans and had them handed over to the cooks. Now I just need to do my job to ensure they are following through.

Prioritize your health
Sure, I indulge now and then…pizza, a cocktail now & then, Justin’s PB cups whenever I get a chance, but I eat well about 90% of the time. For me, it’s the norm, it’s my way of life, it’s how I want to eat, it’s a priority. We all have 24 hours in a day…how is it that some people can get their workouts in 3-4 days a week and some can’t? How is it that some people can take time to chop up veggies and prepare meals in advance and some hit the Burger King drive-thru instead? Priorities!

Food plan
I’ve been trying to keep things real simple with clients…these five bullet points are a good start:

  • Plenty of veggies
  • 1-2 servings of fruit
  • “Clean” protein
  • “Healthy” fats
  • Single ingredient earth grown complex carbs – ex: potatoes, quinoa, rice

1. The search for nut butters
I’ve now been to over 5 different supermarkets here…many have large peanut butter-only sections, however, I have yet to find ANY nut butter that has only the nut. Every one of them contain sugar and/or oils. And the saddest part is, many of these are in the “healthy” aisles. Since I’ve decided to pass on the “healthy” peanut butter, I decided to make my own butters…super easy! Here are two I made this week:

Almond Butter

1 cup almonds
Pinch or two of sea salt
Dollop of honey
Spoonful of coconut oil (yes, I found some here at an organic market in town!!)
Throw it all in a processor and blend for about 15 minutes.

IMG_3612                                                                                     Almond butter 

Cashew Butter
1 cup cashews
1 tsp cinnamon
Spoonful of coconut oil
Throw it all in a processor and blend for about 15 minutes.

IMG_3610                                                                                     Cashew butter

2. Food prices…three examples
Blueberries here are over $8 for 6 oz…not organically grown either. I forget what they cost back home but this seems a bit high.

A dozen eggs are only $1.56…however, I’m afraid learn how these chickens are raised and fed. Last week, I learned about some organic, pastured chickens and hope to get their eggs soon.

A 500 gram jar of raw honey here costs…$80!! I have no idea why it’s so expensive but I think I need to get into the Middle Eastern honey market.

3. Eat local
Eating local is one of my favorite things. Knowing something didn’t sit in a crate for a week while it traveled around the globe is a priority for me. I recommend going local whenever possible; it’s one of the big reasons I was such a huge fan of the farmer’s market back in SD. I was real worried about the local scene here, however, I’m super grateful to have two clients who both have local organic farms here just outside the city. My weekly veggie quota is being met with ease! I need to start adding more handfuls of kale to my daily shake or I need another fridge.

fridge                                                       local kale, arugula, mustard greens, parsley,
                                                           beans, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers 

4. Love of lamb
I found a company that delivers local, pastured grass-fed meat (lamb). I ordered some this week and can’t wait to give it a try. Speaking of lamb, it is by far the most popular choice of protein here. I’ve tried a few different types of lamb; ground, chops, even lamb intestines. I like the meat itself but the intestines, not so much.

IMG_3576Lamb intestines…ugh

About Doug Balzarini
Doug Balzarini, CSCS, MMA-CC, is the owner of DB Strength, which provides fitness training, education, and resources. He is also the strength and conditioning coach for Alliance MMA where he works with UFC Champion Dominick Cruz, Bellator Champion Michael Chandler, Phil Davis, Brandon Vera, Travis Browne, Ross Pearson, Alexander Gustafsson, and more. Prior to starting his own business, Doug worked at Fitness Quest 10 as a personal trainer, strength coach, and Operations Director for Todd Durkin Enterprises (TDE).

He has completed some graduate work in Biomechanics at SDSU and has obtained multiple certifications including ACE, NSCA-CSCS, MMA-CC, TFW Level 1, TRX instructor training, RIP training, EFI Gravity instructor training, LIFT Sandbag Certification, and FMS training. He has produced his 2 DVD projects on strength training for combat athletes, appeared in many fitness videos and articles, and was a coach on “The Ultimate Fighter” FOX TV show in 2012.

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