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.
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.
How can I increase my strength?
Perform heavy weight, low rep training while avoiding failure.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!