FAQ

General Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and General Knowledge

1. How fast can I lose weight?

This depends on how much body fat you currently have. People with higher amounts of body fat (over 20% body fat) have the potential to lose more weight without suffering muscle loss and/or metabolism reduction. People with less body fat (less than 20% body fat) should aim to lose no more than 1 lb per week. Any more than 1 lb and you’re chartering into dangerous territory. Of course, if your goal is to look like a skinny twig, then lose all the weight you want.

2. Should I cut or bulk?

This depends on your goals and your starting point. Start from my first post here.

With how fat our world has become, unless you have very little body fat, you should most likely be cutting. It is usually easier to cut then bulk.

3. What is Intermittent Fasting (IF)?

Intermittent fasting is the process in which you abstain from eating for planned amount of time. Whether it be just one hour to 72 hours, it is a program that can be highly effective, using the right system.

4. Why should I fast?

Technically, everyone who sleeps is already intermittent fasting. When you sleep, you are in a fasting stage where your body is not consuming any food. Most people fast naturally between 6-8 hours a day. My program will push you to fast for longer periods. Within the last 100 years, we have been blessed with constant availability and access to food. Whenever we feel hungry, we are able to find a snack and eat. As a result, our bodies have been stunted and our sensitivity to insulin has been stunted. Many obese people have even become insulin resistance. Insulin causes our bodies to store fat. Intermittent fasting can help curb this resistance and make your body sensitive to insulin again.

5. Is this another fad diet?

No, this is not a diet. This is a change in lifestyle that harnesses healthy portion control with a variety of food sources. I encourage you to eat whatever it is you want, but make sure you are eating in a balanced way.

6. Where can I find more information?

Check out some external resources here.

7. Should I avoid carbs?

No, learn more about my nutrition recommendations here.

8. Should I avoid fats? 

No, learn more about my nutrition recommendations here.

9. How much protein should I be eating?

Again, learn more about my nutrition recommendations here.

10. Can I drink alcohol?

Read my take on alcohol here.

General Fitness Myths

For more info on Nutrition myths, see the Examine.com FAQ.

Myth: My metabolism is higher/lower/different than other people

No it’s not. Excluding rare and serious metabolic conditions, which should be diagnosed by a doctor, people’s metabolisms tend to be within 200-300 calories of each other. This is almost negligible when you consider daily calorie consumption.

Myth: Doing high reps of lighter weights will help me get toned

Firstly, being “toned” is not a valid concept. Muscle tone is the amount of tension a muscle maintains when it’s at rest. What most people mean when they say “toned” is certain level of muscular definition. Being “toned” is simply a matter of having enough muscle mass and low enough body fat.

Additionally, working high repetitions of exercises at low weights will increase muscular endurance more than anything else. If your goal is strength, you should be working high weight for low repetitions. If you goal is size and definition, you should be working medium weights for medium repetitions. See What do different repetition ranges mean?.

Myth: Ab exercises can make you lose stomach fat

You can’t target where you lose fat. This is called “spot reduction” and it doesn’t exist. Your genes are responsible for where your body stores fat, and it’s the same thing for losing fat. It’s pretty much a “first on, last off” type situation, so if the first place get fat is your belly it’s probably going to be the last place to lose it. Do the things mentioned above to lower your overall body-fat percentage and your belly fat will start to go away.

Myth: Eating too little puts you in Starvation Mode

Starvation mode is a myth that was popularized due to the Minnesota Starvation Experiment in which subjects were given 50% of their daily calorie intake for months. The result? Well, they lost weight until they had almost no weight left to lose and their bodies simply could not get the calories ANYWHERE. Concisely put: starvation mode happens when you are, quite literally, wasting away. Not when you have a simple caloric deficit. Your body will make up for it with fat stores. That’s what they’re for. Do not worry about starvation mode.

Myth: Women will get bulky if they lift heavy things

While some things are different for women than they are for men (where your body tends to store fat, how quickly you’ll lose body fat, how quickly you’ll add muscle, etc.) pretty much everything in this FAQ applies equally to women and men. How to lose body fat, how to add muscle, how to get fit, how to “tone up”…the principles are same for both women and men.

Some women are averse to heavy weights because they don’t want to “bulk up” or “look like a dude”. However, most women will never get as bulky as guys because they lack sufficient testosterone. The female professional athletes you see with “toned” arms are more indicative of what is possible without drugs.

Myth: Lifting weights is going to make me huge like a bodybuilder

Putting on muscle is not easy. It takes years of dedicated work. It is insulting to the people who do this on purpose to think you could get to the same level accidentally. Unless you’re specifically training to “be huge” you’re not going to accidentally get huge. And even if you find yourself getting bigger than you’d like, you can always stop working out to reverse these effects.

Myth: Lifting weights makes you inflexible

The ACSM finds that full range strength training improves flexibility. Additionally, top weightliftersgymnastsbodybuilders, and more regularly demonstrate advanced levels of flexibility while being exceedingly strong.

Strength training does not create inflexibility if done properly – an imbalanced program and lifting through abbreviated ranges of motion causes inflexibility.

 

Diet FAQ

What is the most important rule to follow for a healthy diet?

Maintaining enough vitamins, minerals and proteins while limiting calories is by far the most important rule to a healthy diet regardless of their source and whether or not they are “natural” or “whole”. Repeated studies have shown that having excess body fat, type 2 diabetes and weight gain are resultant from eating and storing more calories than one burns. Eating too many of any form of calories whether from whole foods or not will cause these problems. A Newcastle University team has recently discovered (2011) that Type 2 diabetes can actually be reversed by an extreme low calorie diet alone.

I should avoid fat, right?

Fat calories are not “worse” than other calories. Fats are essential for many bodily functions including metabolism, brain function, and testosterone production. However, fats are more calorically dense than other macronutrients and provide more calories – this makes a difference if you are attempting to eat at a deficit.

Well then I should avoid sugar because of insulin spikes, right?

Insulin gets a bad rap. Sugar isn’t the only thing that spikes insulin – protein does too. Insulin is considered to be the anabolic hormone – you need it to build muscle.

Rather than worrying about insulin, you should worry about whatever diet works the best for you and helps you hit your overall caloric goals.

Which diet plan is the best?

There is no best. There are many paths to maintaining a good diet and losing weight. The important thing to understand is that people are different in their tastes and lifestyles but not in their body metabolisms by any large degree. Resting body metabolism between extreme athletes and unfit people vary by less than 5% which means it has virtually no impact on how much you can eat or burn in daily decisions. You should be prepared to experiment and find what works for you so that you can maintain a diet that avoids an excess of calories over your lifetime however actively you choose to live.

In the end, the “best diet” is the one that you will stick to.

What about Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting, or IF, has been shown to increase metabolic rate in some circumstances. But at the end of the day, IF is just another way to reduce caloric intake over a 24 hour period. It is merely a “trick” to eat less.

What’s the deal with low carb diets?

Low-carb dieting is another “trick” that allows people to stop eating so much sugar and carbohydrates (flours and starches and pastas) which greatly reduces caloric intake without jeopardizing vitamin, protein or essential oils (fats) losses. Most processed carbohydrate sources are not nutrient-dense foods and are not ideal, unless you are trying to store more energy for more significant periods of exertion (e.g. marathon, distance bicycling or days of long hiking).

Carbohydrates are not what makes people fat. Calories matter most. However, low-carb diets have been shown to improve fasting plasma glucose and insulin levels, cholesterol levels, blood triglycerides, preserve muscle mass during weight loss, and other health markers.

Low-carb dieting has side benefits for ultra-endurance athletes (increase in intramuscular triglycerides), but can negatively impact high intensity strength training by reducing muscle glycogen and forcing the body to convert protein into glucose, rather than use it for muscle building.

What about Paleo / Primal / Keto / South Beach / Atkins ?

These are restrictive diets that also use “tricks” to make people simply eat less calories. The tricks vary, but usually result in a person eating a low-carb / high-fat diet, but restricting food choices.

Because food choices are restricted on these diets, finding good things to eat can be tough. Below is a list of cookbooks and websites with information pertaining to these diets:

Can I still get strong if I am a Vegetarian / Vegan?

Yes. Protein requirements vary, but you will probably want to consume a protein supplement in addition to your normal diet if you are strength training. Rice protein, hemp protein, and gemma pea protein are good options, as is soy. Egg or whey protein is ideal if that is allowed.

There are certain important factors to keep in mind when considering vegetable protein. PDCAAS, the FAO/WHO standard for determining protein quality, considers soy protein to be just as useful as whey or animal protein. Unfortunately, recent research suggests that measurements such as BV and PDCAAS do not take into account important factors such as anti-nutritional factors and chymotrypsin inhibitors. These anti-nutritional factors limit the extent to which your body can utilize the protein and are commonly found in soy and other vegetable protein isolates. Thus, it is important to keep in mind that you may require a higher dosage of vegetable protein to gain the same effect.

If you aim for a more moderate but still adequate protein intake (1-1.2g/kg bodyweight or lean mass), then you can achieve this through a healthy and smart diet. Just be aware to eat varied sources for a more complete distribution of amino acids.

Won’t soy protein affect my testosterone levels?

In regards to soy usage and phytoestrogens (isoflavones), they do not affect testosterone levels per se. They may modulate the androgen receptor, which mediates the effects of testosterone. This is a ‘leveling mountains and filling valleys’ effect, and could potentially reduce testosterone if your testosterone levels were well above baseline to start. There is evidence that these same phytoestrogens can actually act androgenic (like testosterone) in older men suffering from low testosterone!

A conclusive statement about whether soy is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ cannot be made about the isoflavone content. Just be aware to cook your soy to denature the trypsin inhibitors so you can actually get the protein. A good review of soy can be found here

Should I take a multivitamin?

If your diet is lacking in vitamins and minerals, a multivitamin might be beneficial, but it is certainly not needed.

Multivitamins are a stop-gap to fill holes in an insufficient diet. The best option is still to get these vitamins from whole food sources when possible.

Should I take other supplements?

As the name implies, supplementation should only be used for additive effects – your primary fitness goals will be mostly achieved via diet and exercise. Still, with that in mind, there are three supplements that are frequently cited for general health and building muscle:

 

Exercise FAQ

What do different repetition ranges mean?

See Realization of Training Goals on Wikipedia.

  • 1-5 reps primarily develop strength, with more impact on muscle size and none on endurance.
  • 6-12 reps develop a balance of strength, muscle size and endurance.
  • 13-20 reps develop endurance, with some increases to muscle size and limited impact on strength.
  • 20+ reps are considered to be focused on aerobic exercise. They do still use the anaerobic system, but usually at a rate through which it can consistently remove the lactic acid generated from it.

Powerlifters typically concentrate on the 1-5 rep range, with forays into 5-8. Bodybuilders typically concentrate on 5-12 reps. Athletes typically concentrate on rep ranges that mimic their sport, or a specific periodization schema.

How long should I rest between sets?

In general, the more intense the lift, the longer you should rest.

  • Heavy Weight/Low Reps = Longer Rest (3-5+ minutes)
  • Light Weight/High Reps = Shorter Rest (0.5-3 minutes)

Rest periods should be determined on an individual basis. Certain programs may call for strict rest periods, or you may have some flexibility.

Is strength training dangerous?

While there is a risk of injury with any physical activity, the potential for harm in an inherently controlled environment like a gym or weight room is substantially less than many “safer” sports with chaotic or unpredictable environments, such as cycling (collisions with pedestrians and automobiles), soccer (near ubiquitous ACL tears, especially for women), or even tennis (tennis elbow).

The most frequent causes of injury in strength training are using too much weight, or not using proper form. The first reason is why you see those horrible youtube powerlifting / weightlifting injuries. Competitors are trying to lift the MAXIMUM amount of weight, and are willing to accept the risk of injury. This is far different than lifting in the gym, where you are trying to lift a substantial amount of weight in a safe and sustainable manner.

I am still growing, will lifting weights stunt my growth?

Lifting weights with proper form while maintaing a healthy diet will not stunt your growth. In fact, weight lifting has many benefits for youths including increased strength for sports and higher self-esteem.

See:

Should I use machines to avoid injury?

No! Weight machines can appear safer, but actually can create muscle imbalances due to involving fewer muscle groups and moving along fixed pathways that may not align with your body’s geometry. Instead, learn to do the exercises properly with free weights, beginning with just your bodyweight or an empty bar, and gradually adding weight in 5 or 10lb increments until you find the appropriate weight for your ability.

Weight machines are popular in commercial gyms because they may reduce the risk of idiots injuring themselves WHILE working out (which could create lawsuits for the gym), but they increase the risk of injury when you actually attempt to use those muscles outside of the gym (which the gym doesn’t care as much about, because they’re not going to be sued).

That is not to say that machines do NOT have a place in a good routine. They should simply not be the primary focus.

What about the Smith Machine?

The Smith Machine should be viewed like any other machine (see the above section). It is not safer than normal free weight work.

Should I train full-body or a body-part split?

For the first several months of weight training, beginners can expect to raise the weight they are lifting in a linear progression, without any increased rest time needed – this means you will get regularly stronger day after day.

Beginners to strength training are defined by how quickly they can recover from exercise. For this reason, as a beginner, it is best to get as much work in as possible each week. If you do a full-body routine three times per week, that means you’re training your entire body roughly 12 times per month (144 times per year). A body-part split, hitting different body parts over a week is going to train your whole body one (maybe two) times per week, which is 4-8 times per month (48-96 times per year).

As a beginner, doing a body-part split is not taking advantage of your advanced recovery capabilities. Splits should be left to the more advanced strength trainees who need longer to recover.

I have an injury, what should I do?

If an injury and pain persist for longer than a few days, you should see a doctor. Do not trust Fittit to heal you.

Joint Injuries

Joint injuries require lots of extra help. Joint mobility work is necessary and should be done every morning. This typically involves joint circles (except for the hinge joints: elbow, fingers, knees, etc. Never “circle” hinge joints). The best recommendation I’ve seen is to do a number of joint circles equal to your age, both clockwise and counterclockwise. If you have a popping or creaking joint, double this number. If it is painful, move slower and triple the number.

It may also help to put light pressure on the joints and work them out. For instance, doing standing pushups against a wall is a great way to help a shoulder injury. Doing “squats” while lying on your back will help a knee injury. The key is to move them, and put stress on them, but not a lot. Your body will respond to stress by making things stronger.

Muscular Injuries

RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Additionally, non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are helpful to reduce pain and swelling.

As for applying ice, there are many recommended ways to do this, I will provide one: apply ice for 10 minutes, then no ice for 20 minutes, and repeat as often as possible. Ice causes a vasoconstriction. When you remove the ice the vasodilation brings fresh nutrient dense blood into the injury site to speed recovery. This is similar to contrast bathing. There is a good break down of how to implement RICE here.

Should I work out if I’m sick?

Over the internet, it’s very hard for others to evaluate how sick you are. Missing one workout because you’re not feeling well is not the end of the world, but repeatedly begging off workouts may have an impact on your longterm goals.

The general consensus is that, if it is a mild head cold (runny nose, sore throat, etc) you should be good to workout–be sure to wipe down the equipment when you’re done–but with a chest cold (coughing up mucus) it’s probably a good time for a rest day or two. There are some other concerns for those that don’t have a home gym. If you are fairly sick you should stay home for the health of others that go to your gym (especially during flu season). If you are sick, can’t get to the gym, and still feel the need to workout try some light bodyweight work (see /r/bodyweightfitness). Keep in mind while you’re sick, you should lower the intensity of your workout to keep the body focused on the task at hand (fighting your sickness) and to prevent injury, as your body overall is in a weaker state than normal.

Should I workout again if I’m still sore?

It sounds like you’re experiencing Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). DOMS is merely a sign that you body isn’t used to what you did. This is fine. You should workout again today, and make sure to properly warm up. You’ll notice that this decreases in intensity over the next couple of weeks.

Am I doing something wrong if I’m not sore anymore after a workout?

No. DOMS is merely a sign that your body did something new. As it adjusts to your new routine, soreness will lessen and maybe even go away completely.

If I do cardio and strength train, what should I do first?

Since fatigue from cardio first can result in poor lifting form, the general consensus is to lift first.

However, concurrent strength and endurance training should be avoided if you want maximum results from strength training[1][2]. Cardio inhibits the muscle building effects of resistance training on a molecular level. Periodization is the best solution, but if you must do both, put them as far away from each other as possible (eg. on different days). You will still get big and strong if you do both simultaneously, but it will take longer.

Aren’t bodyweight exercises for beginners?

This is simply not true. While bodyweight skills definitely have an upper limit, unlike weight lifting which is limited only by how many plates will fit on the bar, leverage can be varied quite a bit, increasing the difficulty of these skills. Progressive resistance makes you stronger. It does not matter if this comes from varied leverage, or extra weight.

The key to getting stronger with bodyweight exercise is to make them progressively harder by changing exercises slightly as you get stronger.

There are many stories of people who don’t weight train and end up lifting very large amounts their first time out, due to body weight skills. Here is a video of Ross Enamait deadlifting 495lbs (at 170lb body weight) with no deadlift skills and a primarily bodyweight-only training routine.

See /r/bodyweightfitness for more details on bodyweight exercises.

What sort of cardio is best?

The answer is up to your preferences. Take a look at /r/bicycling/r/running/r/swimming, and other subreddits for details regarding cardio.

How do I improve my flexibility/mobility?

Flexibility and mobility are roughly the same concept, describing the ranges of motion that a person can move through. There are many ways to improve flexibility and mobility – stretching, foam rolling, and mobility exercises. In general, foam rolling and mobility exercises should be included in your warmup, and stretching should be done after a workout.

Starting Stretching / Molding Mobility are two programs for raw beginners to get to above average flexibility, but like everything in life, you need to keep increasing the challenge to continue flexibility gains and add more target

 

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