For the past 20 years as a fitness professional, I’ve been asked thousands of questions on fitness & diet and for the most part, some of these questions are very similar in context. So I will answer some of the most common fitness & diet questions I have been asked in the past 20 years. Yeah, right. My memory isn’t that good but the same questions keep arising and hopefully we can put some of these to bed.
HOW DO I GET RID OF MY BELLY FAT?
Truth be told, belly fat is a two-headed monster. One being the subcutaneous fat (underneath the skin) which is pretty much what most people want to get rid of. The other being visceral fat (around the organs) which has the potential of being the silent killer. Fat around the organs is a no-no and is known to be a leading cause of heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer. So how does one get rid of both?
Apart from the above method and liposuction, Diet & Exercise is the one-two punch. Sound familiar? Well, you can also add change in lifestyle too. There isn’t a magic pill or a quick way to reduce belly fat. And you can’t spot reduce! Your body will dictate where fat is reduced. You do not have a say. The best advice is to create a favorable hormonal environment like diet, exercise, lifestyle change to maximize your body’s fat burning potential.
HOW MUCH CARDIO SHOULD I DO?
I get this a lot. To clarify, to do cardio benefits what? Yes, the cardiovascular system: the heart, lungs, etc. The recommendation for cardio varies from person to person and depending on their goals. For the most part, people want to lose weight and body fat and cardio can help if you are doing the right type. What is the right type? Well, there is the steady state cardio which a person gets on a treadmill, bike, elliptical and sets off on a steady speed for a specific amount of time usually 30 minutes. If this is you, STOP! Then there is the High Intensity Interval Training where one goes all out for about 10-20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds-2 minutes, then repeats. If this is you, STOP! Let me explain.
Steady state is good for someone who is a total beginner and/or needs to lose a lot of weight. It will introduce their bodies to cardio and over time will reap the benefits. However, the benefits are short-lived if something else is not introduced into the fat loss equation like weight training. For the others, steady state cardio will signal your body to store fat over the long run and you will lose precious lean muscle to boot. Your metabolism will down regulate and your benefits will cease. Unless you also weight train, but even the weight training method that is being practice is faulty. Back to that in a minute.
High Intensity Interval Training has its purpose but should not be performed frequently. Your central nervous system will not like you for long and you will become sluggish and not motivated to be consistent with this mode of cardio.
So what is the solution? Designing a weight training program that will give you the benefit of both. How so? Well the idea of exercise is oxygen debt or anything that makes you breath hard. That’s it! By performing a series of exercise in a purposeful manner with the right amount of intensity will result in that oxygen debt and you will reap the benefits of strengthening the heart, lungs, muscles, etc. The purpose of weight training for weight loss is to preserve as much of your muscle as possible as you engage in lowering your calories via diet. Do you wonder why your scale may not change much? Well rapid weight loss can be a result of the loss of muscle but most likely it is water. Engaging in a correct weight training regiment, with moderate weight that engages how the human body functions, within a set of rep ranges, at a moderate intensity, will help preserve that muscle.
So ditch the treadmill, the bike, the elliptical and engage in a weight training regiment for 30-40 minutes, 3x/week and make sure you are breathing pretty hard during the duration. Of course, resting is part of the equation also so rest accordingly but try not to rest completely.
SHOULD I CUT OUT (INSERT FOOD HERE)?
Here’s a truth that you will not hear from the media: humans are omnivore’s. We are designed to consume plants and animals. About 20-30 years ago, the food trend was to avoid fat in your diet. The trend in the past 5 years has been the elimination of carbs. ?Now it’s the elimination on Gluten. Where does this end?
There is NO secret to helping you with weight loss and it doesn’t come in totally eliminating a complete food group. Humans are built to digest and utilize carbs, fats and proteins. Are there people who suffer from gastric discomforts from certain foods? Yes but a very few not like today where most people are gluten intolerant.
For a fascinating education of the gluten myth that is so pervasive today, please check out the video’s from Scott Abel. He has dedicated many years of research in this matter and makes it easily digestible. Here’s part 1 of an 11 part series.
HOW DO I GET TONED?
No such thing. I think we need to clarify this term and it’s meaning. The recommendations from most fitness professional is to use higher reps to achieve that long, toned look. Well there is no such thing. Muscles change shape but not in the fashion that most people want you to believe. Every muscle has an origin, where it starts, and an insertion, where it attaches. Your genetics dictate where along the bone a muscle starts and end via its tendons. So your muscles can’t get long or tight. I think for the most part, people refer to ‘toning’ as another word for fat reduction. Well a muscle can be seen much more clearly if the fat that surrounds it or on top of muscle is reduced. Weight training strengthens the muscle underneath the fat and will grow depending on the exercise stimulus. With the reduction of body fat, you will see the muscle more.
The classic six-pack abs is a great example of that. Forget the crunches. They don’t do diddly squat for the mid-section (but hey, definitely do squats, deadlifts. That’ll help tremendously). As the saying goes: ‘Abs are built-in the kitchen.’ And that pertains to your diet. A gazillion sit-ups or crunches will never get you that six-pack but will attribute to lower back issues down the road.. Stop wasting your time. As I mentioned before, you cannot spot reduce or spot bulk.
I DON’T WANT TO GET BULKY
This is the declaration I get from mostly women but some men have expressed this as well. Let’s get at the heart of the matter. Without the use of pharmaceutical drugs, you will not, let me repeat, will not be a cartoon character! Now, there are women who do gain some size naturally but that is genetically dictated and few and far between. Don’t shy away from weight training. It is the only way, with diet, to change the look of your body. A look that is pleasing and quite sexy. You will get lean meaning again, the reduction of body fat. Using a variety of tools in your weight training regiment like body weight, dumbbells, bands, stability ball, suspension trainers, etc, training in all planes of motion and following a sensible diet will ensure your body will reach its visual and functional potential.
There are many, many more questions, more b.s, more myths that need to be dispelled. Even Googling a certain question may give you answers that are so far removed from reality, i.e, science-based. So if you have your own, ask below or go to the Bodyware Fitness Facebook page and ask there.
Take care and always be better than before!