Frequently Asked Fitness Questions and Answers | Not Your Average Fitness Tips

Frequently Asked Fitness Questions and Answers

With the heightened interest in fitness for the New Year, I’ve received quite a few fitness questions about diet and exercise routines.  As such, I thought it would be helpful to develop a list of frequently asked fitness questions and answers.  For each fitness question below, I’ve provided a short answer and a link to articles I’ve done that contain more information.  Hopefully these frequently asked fitness questions will help provide a brief insight into some of my recommendations.

Can you provide any sample workout plans?

This is one of the more popular questions since people are always looking for a well laid out plan.  Personally, I think every person is unique and should develop the knowledge to create their own workout routines.  Absent that, I’m happy to assist in creating something that meets your goals.  First I’d recommend checking out the following resources where I provide some sample workout routines and diet plans:

Fitness in a Flash
How to Get a Beach Body in 2 Months or Less
Six Pack Abs Workout Routine, Diet Plan & Exercises
Intense Home Workout
Workout Routines for Beginners
Pushing Exercises & Pulling Exercises

How many calories should I eat to lose weight?  How many calories should I eat to gain muscle?

This is a tough one because counting calories is such a challenge.  If you’re confident in your ability to approximate your caloric intake, I would recommend eating 10x your target weight if you’re trying to lose weight and 15x your target weight if you’re trying to gain muscle.  Those are just starting points.  I recommend adjusting week to week.  Additionally, I find that when and what you eat can be just as important as how much you eat.  Eating a clean, healthy diet with limited refined sugar will go a long way toward helping you lose fat or gain muscle.  Additionally, using a strategy like calorie cycling where you eat more on days that you exercise can help you achieve either goal as well.

Why am I not losing weight?
Weight Loss Math
Calorie Cycling

How can I gain muscle mass?

Train to failure and eat at a slight caloric surplus.  Cumulative fatigue by utilizing training to failure (sarcoplasmic hypertrophy) is the real key to getting bigger muscles.  I only recommend a modest caloric surplus to limit fat gain.  Per my comment above, the cleaner you eat, the more likely you’ll gain muscle instead of fat as well.  Eating your biggest meal after a workout is another great strategy to supply your muscles with all the nutrients they need to grow.

Visual Impact Muscle Building Results: Phase 1
What is the best way to gain muscle mass?
Skinny Guy Workout
Low Weight High Reps Training to Failure
Best Muscle Building Diet

How can I increase my strength?

Perform heavy weight, low rep training while avoiding failure.

Strength Reps vs. Muscle Mass Reps
High Weight Low Reps Superset Workout Routine
How to Increase Bench Press
How to Increase Pushups and Increase Pull Ups

If I can’t do pushups or pull ups, how can I start bodyweight training?  Are there more advanced bodyweight exercises?

Utilized a progressive training routine in which you start with a very basic movement and gradually increase the difficulty until you can perform pushups.  For example, you may start out by doing wall pushups.  There are plenty of highly challenging bodyweight exercises but I find the ones outlined in Convict Conditioning to be the best.  You could also incorporate gymnastics or rings training to increase the difficulty of bodyweight training.

Bodyweight Calisthenics Workout: Progressive Training Routine
The Best Bodyweight Exercises
Convict Conditioning 2
Rings Training

Can you recommend a good cardio routine?  When should I perform cardio?

My preferred cardio routine is as follows:

2 minute warm up
8 minute short interval HIIT (15 second sprint, 45 second rest, repeated for 8 sets): this increases HGH levels and releases fatty acids into the bloodstream
25 minute steady state cardio: this burns fatty acids
10 minute long interval HIIT (1 minute fast jog, 1 minute slow jog repeated for 5 sets): this reduces glycogen levels and provides for an increased after-burn effect

To the extent possible, I recommend performing cardio in the morning on an empty stomach.  If you perform HIIT along with a weight training routine, I would either perform on separate days or do HIIT after weight training.  Watch out for overtraining as I wouldn’t recommend performing HIIT more than 3 days per week and would always take at least one day off between sessions.  You can perform low intensity cardio for extra calorie burning as needed.  Note that I don’t perform any weight training for my legs either.  HIIT give my legs the strength and definition I desire.

Don’t forget to switch the routine up from time to time.  You can vary the length of sprint intervals, the ratio of sprint to recovery time, or even the type of machine or exercise you perform.  From time to time, I like to utilize the Tabata Protocol and plyometric training exercises.

If you want a more formalized approach, then I highly recommend Visual Impact Cardio.  There’s no better approach to using cardio to lose body fat.

The Best Cardio For Weight Loss
Advanced HIIT Training
Morning Cardio on an Empty Stomach (Fasted Cardio)
Cardio Before or After Weights
Benefits of a Low Intensity Cardio Workout
Tabata Protocol
Plyometric Training Exercises

What is circuit training?

Circuit training involves moving from one exercise to the next with little to no rest.  Doing so provides a nice cardiovascular workout that helps burn fat in addition to preserving muscle.  In essence, circuit training can serve a similar purpose as HIIT as it increases HGH levels and releases fatty acids into the bloodstream.  I recommend HIIT for leg training and ending weight training days with upper body circuit training.  My circuits include weights, bodyweight exercises, kettlebells, and even boxing.  For some bonus fat burning, add 15 minutes of steady state cardio after circuit training to burn the fatty acids in your bloodstream.

Circuit Training Exercises
Circuit Training Workout Routine
Kettlebell Workout Routines
Boxing Workouts

How can I spot reduce belly fat?

Despite what infomercials would have you believe, you can’t.  Unfortunately many people think crunches will help them reduce belly fat and get better abs.  The truth is that you can’t spot reduce any fat.  Losing fat takes place across the entire body.  This myth predicates from the fact that you can increase the size of specific muscles through resistance training.  Therefore it seems logical that you should also be able to reduce fat in specific areas.  This just isn’t the case though.  Belly fat in particular is very stubborn and requires a good diet and high intensity exercise to eliminate.  Training your abs is of no value for reducing belly fat but is important for increasing core strength.  Crunches are not the best exercise though as they can cause back problems over the long term.  Instead, focus on exercises like planks.

How to Lose Stubborn Body Fat
How to get washboard abs?
Best Ab Workout
Best Core Exercises

What is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting is where you go without calories for a set amount of time, generally between 14-24 hours.  My first exposure to intermittent fasting came through Eat Stop Eat.  It allowed me to lose a lot of weight without giving up my favorite foods.  Essentially I skipped breakfast and lunch two days per week.  This created enough of a caloric deficit to allow me to eat what I wanted the rest of the week and still lose weight.  Since I’ve gotten in better shape, I’ve embraced more of a daily fasting approach where I try to go 15-16 hours without eating.  In this case, I stop eating after dinner and simply eat a later breakfast the following day.  This type of approach has proven helpful in reducing stubborn belly fat.

Intermittent Fasting Results
Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss Approaches

Do you recommend any supplements?

I don’t think supplements should be a requirement of any fitness program.  However, if you’re trying to get every advantage possible, there are a few to consider.  For gaining muscle, creatine has been proven effective for gaining strength and muscle mass.  I also utilize BCAAs when I perform fasted training to ensure that I don’t lose muscle.  For losing weight, I recommend natural substances like caffeine, capsaicin, cinnamon, and green tea.  Finally, for overall health, I recommend a multi-vitamin and essential fatty acids.  If you’re eating a healthy diet with plenty of nutrients, then you may be able to skip the multi-vitamin.  Same goes for essential fatty acids if you eat enough fish.

Best Supplements for Weight Loss and Muscle Gain
Creatine Benefits
BCAA Benefits
Krill Oil Benefits

What are your thoughts on protein and post workout nutrition?

I think the amount of protein a person needs is overblown by the fitness industry…primarily because there’s a lot of money to be made from supplement companies that produce protein.  If you’re aggressively trying to gain muscle, I think 1g/lb is more than enough.  If you’re trying to lose fat, you could probably eat as little as 0.6-0.7g/lb.

As for post workout nutrition, it’s an optimal time to eat your biggest meal if possible.  Your body is primed to absorb nutrients.  While protein shakes are great for post workout nutrition, I prefer to simply eat a real meal.  I used to drink chocolate milk after a workout but found that the refined sugar led to cravings that resulted in overeating post workout.  In other words, while I should have just had 1-2 glasses of chocolate milk, I’d either end up drinking a carton or eating other foods which resulted in a caloric intake that was too high.  Don’t forget that carbs are just as important as protein after a workout.  In general, I eat within an hour of a weight training workout to provide my muscles with nutrients but wait 1-2 hours after HIIT before eating to maximize the HGH release.

How Much Protein Do I Need Per Day?
Post Workout Nutrition

How do I measure body fat percentage?

This is a real challenge.  Obviously the best way is to be professionally measured but that can get expensive.  A simple approach is to compare your body to pictures of people online.  Despite their inaccuracy, I tend to use bioelectrical impedance devices along with a skinfold caliper.  Additionally, I track my body measurements with a measuring tape.

Measuring Body Fat Percentage & Measuring Muscle Mass Percentage
Best Ways to Measure Body Fat Percentage

How can I look like XYZ celebrity?

The truth is that you probably can’t.  Let me rephrase, you can but it requires an extreme level of dedication and hard work.  Remember that it’s a celebrity’s job to get in shape for a movie role.  Also remember that they don’t necessarily maintain the same level of physical fitness after the movie is completed.  Some simply get in event shape and then let themselves go.  Another challenge in looking like a celebrity is that you might not have as much free time to exercise or might not have the ability to eat as healthy as they do.  It doesn’t hurt that many have personal trainers and nutrionists to ensure that they stay focused.  That being said, if you aspire to look like a certain celebrity, try your best to achieve that goal.  Just realize the challenges in doing so.

Are Celebrity Workouts and Diets Effective?

I plan on updating these fitness questions from time to time so if you’d like me to add more frequently asked fitness questions and answers, please leave your comment or question below.  I hope you find success with your fitness routine in the New Year!

25 Responses to “Frequently Asked Fitness Questions and Answers”

  • Keith:

    Good stuff Dave,
    This is a good resource, especially for beginners who are try to get fit for the first time.

  • Great resource page Dave.

    The high quality advice your blog contains can be difficult to find with a traditional blog setup. This post together with your comprehensive fitness tips page, make it easy to find exactly what you’re looking for.

  • Wow, this is a really great resource! You should keep it prominently linked since it’s such a good place for beginners to start.

  • I like these summary posts as they give you a basic outline of a large number of topics and sometimes get you to see things in a slightly different way.

    On the subject of intermittent fasting, are you saying the Eat Stop Eat method is more suitable for beginners to IF?

  • Hi Dave! What a great idea of yours. This post will serve as a module or lesson who wants to be fit. This is a great start Dave. Great Job.

  • This page looks awesome man! Keep it up.

  • Dave,

    Like you I often get asked for sample workout plans, or people want to know how I train to stay lean. Like you I think every person is unique and should develop the knowledge to create their own workout routines, however some people just don’t know where to begin. Personally I have been using a combination of HIIT, Crossfit and Weight Training to attain a 9% body fat percentage, whilst still maintaining muscle. I have been posting all my workouts here http://www.noexcusefitness.com.au/category/nikos-training/ for those that are interested.

    Cheers
    Niko

  • Circuit training is excellent is you aren’t worried about adding a lot of bulk. My hear races as I go through my circuit of weight machines. And I’ve gotten cut this way too. Something I’ve always been unable to do. Glad you listed it.

  • All,
    Glad you enjoy this as a resource.

    David,
    For me, Eat Stop Eat was a great way to get in good shape. However, to get really lean, I’ve had more success with the daily fasting approach.

    Niko,
    Sounds like we have a similar approach.

    Felipe,
    Circuit training is an excellent way to get in really good shape.

    Dave

  • This is an incredible resource Dave which deserves to be bookmarked at the least. I agree with Darrin above that once this post falls down a bit on the front page, to place a link to it somewhere prominent like the navigation bar. “New? Start Here” is one option.

  • Robert,
    Good idea! Thanks!
    Dave

  • Kate:

    Thank you SO much for this wonderful compilation of FAQ’s, Dave. :) I really needed some effective sample workout plans and loved the ones you’ve linked here.

  • Kate,
    Thanks for the feedback. Glad you enjoyed the FAQS!
    Dave

  • Alicia:

    Dave,
    I’ve been working my way through your site (what an incredible trove of information you have provided!) and I’ve seen you mention more than once that it is almost impossible to over train doing light steady state aerobics. Yet I’ve read over and over again at various other places that beyond 40 minutes of aerobics, the body begins to catabolize its muscles. I am trying to build up my muscles, so I don’t want to work to the point of breaking them down, yet I am also working on losing a huge amount of weight, so I was hoping to do longer aerobic sessions since, as I understand it, fat burning doesn’t really kick in until 30 minutes. That leaves 10 minutes of fat burning before catabolism, if others are right. I go to Curves (and I work at such a high intensity I think it could qualify as HIIT workouts for me) 3 days a week and on the others I’m doing SS aerobics and just started doing HIIT. On non-Curves and non-HIIT days, I’d either like to do a long SS aerobic session or perhaps 2 shorter ones at different times of the day if that gets past the catabolism issue.

    Thanks for taking the time to answer. I truly appreciate it.

  • Alicia,
    Thanks for the compliments on the site. Here’s my opinion on everything. First, I’d agree that you can catabolize muscle but only by performing excess HIIT or medium intensity cardio. Low intensity cardio done for long time periods should be relatively harmless, especially if you get enough protein and carbs to support your muscles.

    As for your next point about fat burning not happening until the magical 30 minute mark, I find that to be a slight misconception. You’re burning calories the entire time, the idea is that it takes a while for fatty acids to be released into the bloodstream when doing slow, steady state cardio. They are released much faster when performing HIIT. If you’re interested in the fat burning zone myth, check out this article:
    http://www.notyouraveragefitnesstips.com/best-workout-routines/aerobics-routine-fat-burning-heart-rate-fat-burning-zone-myth

    Bottom line, perform as much steady state cardio as you’re comfortable with. Make sure that you don’t tire out your muscles though. The idea is to perform a light activity that keeps your body moving. Also, be careful if you’re doing Curves one day followed by HIIT the next. If Curves involves a lot of high intensity leg training, performing HIIT the next day could lead to muscle catabolism (overtraining). The best time to do steady state cardio is after HIIT but do what’s best for your schedule.

    Sorry for the long answer. I can go into plenty more details as needed.

    Dave

  • Thomas:

    Dave, thanks for the info. I wanted to know if you ever do morning weight training? It is more convenient for me to say, “ok. training in the morning, period.” -whether cardio or weights. Wanted to know what you thought about this as well as weight training in the morning on an empty stomach just like morning HIIT. Thanks and keep up the good work.

  • Thomas,
    Weight training in the morning should work just like morning cardio. My problem is that my muscles just aren’t ready to move heavy weights until I’ve been up 1-2 hours. I can’t make it work with my schedule. The other thing caution that some might argue is that you could risk loss of muscle mass because you won’t have enough protein and glycogen in your system to perform those really heavy lifts. I say give it a go if your body is ready. If you’re really worried about losing muscle mass, you could also consider having BCAAs before training. I have 10g of Xtend. Hope that helps and didn’t confuse you any more!
    Dave

  • Thomas:

    Awesome! What if my primary goal is to lose body fat? I feel like my body is ready in the morning, but perhaps I’m not lifting heavy enough weight. I’m going to try the lower reps, 10-15 min, but I’m focused right now on getting smaller rather than bigger.. Would any of this affect your advice? I use xtend as well. The only part I’m confused about is losing muscle from the act of lifting. I would think that if your lifting regardless of an empty stomach, it would be difficult to lose muscle because you are, indeed, lifting. But I defer to you..Thanks!

  • Thomas,
    You are correct in that as long as you’re getting stronger, you should be gaining muscle mass. As I mentioned, some would say that you’ll ultimately get weaker and lose muscle mass by exercising on an empty stomach. If your primary goal is to lose body fat, you could give circuit training a try as well. Or do a combination…do some compound lifts with low reps and heavy weights and follow up with a fat burning circuit or Tabata workout depending on how much time you have. Happy to elaborate further if you’d like.
    Dave

  • Thomas:

    Dave, thanks again for your reply. I’m going to weight train mon/wed/fri and perform HIIT tues/thur/sat, and I’ll probably do some low intensity cardio here and there. Could you help split up these muscle groups.. chest/tri/shoulders/back/bi/calves/abs.. and also, I think I’m going to do everything in the morning on an empty stomach, however I’m going to drink xtend to try and combat catabolism. Thanks for the advice on circuit training- going to incorporate this eventually. You have a new visitor to your blog!

  • Thomas,
    If you’re planning on doing low rep strength training and avoiding failure, I’d recommend pairing antagonistic muscles. So I’d pair chest with back one day and shoulders, triceps, and biceps another day. Throw in abs whatever day your schedule permits. No real reason to train calves separately in my opinion. If you really want to, I’d train them the same day as you perform HIIT. Good luck!
    Dave

  • Greyson:

    I started using ab rollers as a part of my routine, and went from doing 5 reps for 1 set, to 50 reps for 4 sets. However, I can barely feel the workout, (part of many other exercises, which is too much to explain in 1 post). I notice that my belly is shrinking, despite barely feeling this. Is it a mistake to double the reps for 4 sets everyday? Please respond if you know, and keep in mind that I am an advanced athlete, despite my midsection is not up to speed.

  • Greyson,
    Ab exercises like this help tighten your overall core but the fact that your belly is shrinking is more likely due to the rest of your workout routine and diet. You’re probably burning fat. Once you burn enough, you’ll see the effects of all these ab exercises with a nice six pack. As to whether you should continue advancing, 50 reps for 4 sets seems like plenty but if you’re not feeling it, you can keep pushing yourself harder. The alternative is to find some exercises that challenge you more and then do the ab roller at the end.
    Dave

  • Greyson:

    Thank you Dave! I am not going for a 6 pack, just trying to have no fat in my arms, (already have pure muscle in my legs, due to leg press 4 sets @ 5-8 reps 225 lbs. for a 155 lb. male). It would be nice if I can stay between 150-155 lbs. instead of 155-160+ despite the amount of muscles.

  • Greyson,
    That’s not much to lose at all. You can get there in no time. Good luck!
    Dave

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