Here’s Why These Celebrity Trainers Suggest Chocolate Before Working Out

Eric and Ryan Johnson

Whether they’re circuit training with Scarlett Johansson, body building with Ryan Gosling or toning up with Olivia Cooke, celebrity trainers Eric and Ryan Johnson have one set rule before a workout – dark chocolate. With a high-profile roster, the dynamic duo prides themselves on the confidentiality of their clients and has worked endlessly to venture into luxury real estate and residences through their exclusively curated fitness facilities. With the recent opening of their multi-story fitness center in Manhattan’s newest luxury building The Alyn, the Johnson brothers are strategically taking over one metropolitan city at a time. The Johnsons sat down with Haute Beauty to discuss their fitness journey, the benefits of dark chocolate as a pre-workout, and the future of HOMAGE.


HB: Describe your journey into the fitness field?

EJ: We were not born into this field. Our mom and dad were not into athletics at all. We found our way through sports, and then sports led us to the weight room and that took over. Ryan and I went down different paths to get to the same place. I was always a little more overweight and I had to battle to make weight cuts for football. Making those weight cuts was a really proud moment for me. I was able to see that if you put in the hard work, you will see results. However, I was doing the craziest things possible to drop that weight. I went from sucking on lollipops and spitting out the saliva juice to putting on a trash bag and running hills. I saw that I was working out incorrectly and still seeing results, so I wondered what would happen if I did it the correct way.

RJ: I grew up playing sports. I had a lot of success until I got to high school and I realized that I was undersized and small. I went from having a lot of success playing football in youth leagues, that was controlled by weight limits, to an open field where any size could play. I started to not have any success at all, and I didn’t get any play time. It was an ego crushing, sad moment for me. So, I turned to the help of my uncle who was really into weightlifting. He turned his entire basement of his home into a gym and I asked him if he could help me out. After that, I ended up falling in love with training and seeing what training can do to your life outside of the gym: boost confidence and hit milestones.

EJ: That’s why we created HOMAGE, it’s a dedication to him and to everyone who supported us along the way. Our parents first allowed us to put a gym in the basement and from that, Ryan and I always had a dream to have our own space. Now it’s finally coming true – this is it.


HB: Who was you first high-profile client?

EJ: One of the first clients we both worked with was Scarlett Johansson. We worked at a gym in downtown New York where she was one of the clients and she requested to work with me on strengthening and conditioning. She also boxed and did Muay Thai with Ryan. This is going back almost a decade ago. We trained on-and-off over those years and then exclusively for the last five years. I’ve even personally traveled with her on set, solely taking care of all her physical training for her day-to-day routine and for any of her projects.


HB: Besides Scarlett who else have you guys worked with celebrity wise?

EJ: Olivia Cooke and Sebastian Stan, to name a few. But we can’t always disclose our client information, as privacy is the first and foremost principle of our business. The trust we build with our clients helps us to maximize our results since training is such an intimate relationship that requires trust on both sides.


HB: Describe your workout routine?

RJ: We want to be able to run, jump and throw but also be comfortable with our shirts off. We want to be ready if our clients want to go hiking, biking or even swimming. We want to be able to do everything, including performance workouts, but still follow that with traditional body building.

EJ: To make that happen we really focus on our own wellness and recovery and try to incorporate other exercises whether it’s yoga or Pilates. But we’re also meatheads, we want to be able to lift heavy things. But your environment is a large factor. In New York City, its predominantly weight training-focused because it’s the most accessible. Whereas if you lived somewhere like Los Angeles, you’d be able to do outdoor workouts more easily during the week.

Eric Johnson practicing yoga

HB: Describe your regular diet?

EJ: Ryan and I eat very vegetable-forward. We switched years back from crushing protein non-stop, but the last few years we’ve made vegetables the main focus of our diet.

RJ: Old school and traditional methodology about nutrition merged with growing up in the body building world basically tells you to have a gram of protein per gram of lean body mass of your body to build muscle or to keep muscle. Over the years, I’ve started to test that and see how far I can take it because we’ve always been in that camp where we need protein. Now we’re able to be more eco-conscious and considerate of the environment. I switch up my protein sources to include more plant-based protein, and a lot of ethically responsible foods. Any animal protein I do consume I get from farmers at the farmer’s market who are treating the animals well and minimizing the impact of getting the meat to your plate. Luckily, in New York we have so many farmer’s markets and so much accessibility to markets in New Jersey and Connecticut.


HB: Do you see yourself being a vegetarian the future since you’re already on the path?

RJ: I don’t think I’d ever be a full vegetarian. I’ll experiment with plant-based days for maybe two days a week, but it’s more about being finely in tune with your body and trying to figure out how you’re feeling. There are days where I’ll wake up and something tells me I should be eating a steak tonight.

EJ: It’s about listening to your body. And trying to fix up your digestion system. It’s trying to constantly get into a digestive state where it’s not a fight or flight situation. When we actually rest, we can digest our nutrients better, and that’s key for me. The ability to cook more lets me know what’s going into my food, compared to always eating out where there are a lot of hidden oils. It’s about having more control over what’s going into your body. I’ll personally carb-cycle, where some days I’ll have higher carbs on days where I’m a bit more active and my workouts are a little more strenuous. Protein basically stays constant. The biggest thing in our philosophy is that you can’t demonize a food group. People will take it out and they’ll see results because it reduces their calories, but if you’re in a calorie deficit, you can fit those things you like into the equation as long as they don’t give you digestive distress. We don’t believe any one diet system works; it’s about figuring out what works for you.


HB: Why is dark chocolate your favorite pre-workout snack?

EJ: One of our influencers, Eugene Teo from Australia, recommended looking into dark chocolate for workouts. We started to play around with it and found that there are so many benefits of eating chocolate. Dark chocolate has a host of holistic benefits and we were tired of subpar pre-workouts. We couldn’t fit any more coffee into our regimen without feeling off, so we looked for something else to give us that jolt to get the most out of our sessions – dark chocolate was the answer. There’s a dopamine rush that makes you feel good on top of the endorphins, and its light enough where it fills you if you’re hungry without overloading. It curbs your hunger without making you feel lethargic. It also has a psychological benefit, too, where it creates a positive feedback loop. You start to train your body to be excited to work out and associate training with a truly positive experience.


HB: What areas of the body are most of your clients seeking to change?

RJ: When people come in to work with us, we try to switch the focus off of their weight and body fat percentage. We focus on performance and we’ve found that the more we focus on performance gains, whether it’s getting someone to do their first pull-up or a pistol squat, physique will follow performance. The stronger someone gets and more conditioned someone is, the more their body seems to get leaner. We’re always trying to get that X physique – strong shoulders, smaller waist and better glutes. Everyone is going to have those areas of insecurity, so we try to take those weaknesses and make them a strength. For me, my legs are huge and after years of despising their size, I’ve now made it a strength of mine. We want people to own and love their body and give them the skills to be confident in doing so.


HB: Fitness or diet? Which is more important when rebuilding your body?

EJ: They absolutely have to go hand-in-hand. You’re only going to go so far with your diet. If you want to be able to perform well, you have to train well. If abs are made in the kitchen, training sets the table. With dieting alone, you may lose a lot of fat but you’re not going to build muscle by simply eating a certain way. You have to give your body some sort of stimulus to make those changes in order to look or perform a certain way.


HB: What can we expect in the future from you two?

RJ: Our goal is to continue to expand our influence and the HOMAGE family. We’re incredibly excited about our debut project in Manhattan at The Alyn, and we have a lot of other great projects in the works that we can’t wait to unveil. You’ll have to follow our journey!

Photos courtesy of HOMAGE