We talked with Ben Palacios in November, 2019.
👋 Hi! Tell us about yourself and your training
Hey Bulkhackers! My name is Ben Palacios. I’m somewhat of a Renaissance man; actor, model, personal trainer, producer, singer/songwriter, a capella geek, voice actor, celebrity nanny, Enrique Iglesias’ hand double (for real) and the list goes on.
I grew up between Washington DC, New Jersey, and France, and I’ve studied in Switzerland, Prague, and New York. I majored in Psychology and Drama at Vassar College, and I’ve been living and working in Los Angeles for the past eight years.
I was never athletic as a kid… in fact I hated sports. My hand/eye coordination was abysmal and I preferred creative pursuits. But as a freshman at Vassar College my sheer lankiness got me recruited onto the rowing team, and I quickly became addicted to the rowing lifestyle.
After college, I moved to LA with little money to join a gym, so I predominantly exercised outside: Calisthenics, bodyweight, biking, hiking, and trail running. Since then I’ve joined Crossfit but I maintain my outdoor lifestyle.
⏱ Describe a typical day of training
Let’s take a step back and look at my typical week, which consists of roughly:
- Two Crossfit classes (I prefer Crossfit WODs heavy in gymnastics and bodyweight movements like handstand pushups, handstand walk, muscle-ups, rope climb, toes-to-bar)
- 1-2 hours of road biking
- 2-4 hours of hiking/trail-running
- 1-2 hours of calisthenics and bodyweight exercises (preferably outdoors)
Varying my training in this way keeps me from getting bored of any one activity and forces me to find creative solutions to training outdoors in whatever park I find myself.
For example: How many different exercises can you create with just an open grassy area and a park bench?
- Box jumps
- Handstand walk/practice
- Inverted pushups
- Pistols or elevated pistols (easier)
- Bear crawl
- Mountain climbers
- Spiderman pushups
- Jumping lunges
…the list goes on! Throw in a tree for some handstand pushups and you’ve got yourself a party.
When I train my clients, I use parks equipped with parallel bars and pull-up bars, and I bring resistance bands, a few dumbbells, and a kettlebell. It may not sound like much, but it’s all I need for a killer workout. Let nature be your gym!
👊 How do you keep going and push harder?
The hardest part of a workout is starting it. On some days when my morning alarm goes off, I make every excuse under the sun not to exercise, and sometimes my excuses prevail.
Some people are better at holding themselves accountable—but like any muscle, the more you exercise your own accountability the stronger it gets.
In those moments of struggle I tell myself the following: “Ben, you’ve never regretted doing a workout, but you’ve always regretted NOT doing one… so get the fuck up!”
A few additional tips:
- Caffeine before a workout. I’m not a coffee drinker, but I love Nuun tablets, Emergen-C Energy Plus, and those Whole Foods energy shots. I try to stick to products with green tea or yerba mate extract.
- Find an instructor you love. I never miss a Crossfit class if I know Jackie is coaching (@jackiesixpackie)
- Set aside the time. Make a plan the night before and stick to it. Be realistic… maybe you have a busy day and will never make it to the gym, but there’s always time for a 20min run, or some core work and handstand practice in your living room!
- Always do an extra set. Once you’ve completed the workout you planned and you’ve used all the energy you thought you had… push a little harder. That’s where the magic happens.
🏆 How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
The three most important things to me are functionality, lean muscle, and feeling great in your body. There are massive guys that can squat and clean 5x what I can, but have you seen them run? No, because… they can’t. So unless you’re competing in a bodybuilding competition, chasing that kind of mass doesn’t make sense — it’s just not functional for overall athleticism.
That coveted shredded look you see in movies, TV, and Instagram doesn’t come from getting HUGE, it comes from lean muscle, from definition. And when you have functionality and lean muscle that you can maintain year round, you feel great in your body.
🤕 How do you recover, rest and handle injuries?
Stretch, sleep, drink water, eat plants, repeat.
🍎 How is your diet and what supplements do you use?
I’ve been vegan for over six years. I get everything I need from plants: Vegetables, grains, fruits, legumes, beans, nuts, etc.
To be clear, I’m a bit flexible. My best friend calls me a “Fair-Weather-Vegan” because if she makes a dish with meat or dairy I’ll certainly try a bite or two, but I’ll rely predominantly on the plant-based options. I don’t order animal products at restaurants and I don’t buy them at the grocery store.
The most common question I hear when I tell people I’m vegan is: “How do you get enough protein?” This comes from the incorrect assumption that protein exists only in animals.
You know what truly exists only in animals? Cholesterol, which we’re better off avoiding. You know what exists only in plants? Fiber and Vitamin C, which we need to survive!
Vegans get all the protein they need from grains, legumes, beans, nuts, and vegetables. Have you ever looked at a gorilla and worried that it’s not getting enough protein? Of course not. And gorillas eat almost exclusively plants.
I strive to eat a wide variety of plants and apart from that, I don’t dwell over what I eat, how much, or how often. Sometimes if I want a protein boost after working out I’ll make a smoothie.
Ben’s Kickass Smoothie Recipe:
- LOTS of spinach (triple whatever you’re thinking)
- a peeled orange, with a tiny piece of the peel for flavor
- two big scoops of vegan protein powder (I like Orgain Plant Based Vanilla)
- a big handful of frozen mango chunks
- about a cup of water
I take a B-12 supplement and a vitamin D supplement. Proponents of meat-eating will often site B-12 as a nutrient you can only get from animal products, but this is silly because B-12 is produced by neither plants nor animals… it’s produced by bacteria in the soil.
Factory farm animals are given B-12 as a supplement—otherwise they wouldn’t be “good sources of B-12”. Our ancestors used to get B-12 by eating foods fresh out of the soil, but now our best bet is to take a supplement, or rely on products fortified in B-12. Vitamin D can be found in sunshine and mushrooms… but I take a supplement just in case.
👍 What has inspired and motivated you?
Suzy Amis Cameron and James Cameron—true vegan trailblazers and good friends of mine. Suzy’s new book The OMD Plan: Swap One Meal a Day to Save Your Health and Save the Planet has been featured by Oprah and is great for people considering making the switch towards a plant-based diet.
Suzy and Jim also produced the new documentary Gamechangers, about professional athletes, bodybuilders, and Olympians who go vegan and as a result become faster, stronger, better athletes.
Sunshine. I genuinely love working out in the sun. Hiking, biking, trail running, pull-up bars on the beach. Of course, I wear sunscreen (and often a hat) but damn does it feel good to be out in the sun.
Results. There’s nothing like seeing evidence of your hard work pay off. That’s the ultimate motivator.
Forks Over Knives, a brilliant documentary about the positive effects of a vegan diet on your health.
✏️ Advice for other people who want to improve themselves?
Read. Educate yourself. Watch documentaries. Listen to your body. Stretch. Sleep. Drink water. Eat plants.
🤝 Are you taking on clients right now?
Yes. I train clients in person in Los Angeles, outside in parks, with a mixture of Crossfit-inspired circuit training and bodyweight calisthenics. Get in touch for availability and rates.
📝 Where can we learn more about you?
Website: benpalacios.com (for acting)