Q and A: Part 1

Can you suggest some beginner workouts for someone out of shape, but wanting to get IN shape?

A lot depends on what you enjoy doing. I know SO many people who started their fitness routine with the Couch to 5k plan, it is a really wonderful jumping off point and there’s a huge community you can turn to for support as you follow the plan. Once people get in the habit of making time for exercise, and build up a little cardiovascular endurance, they frequently branch out to other forms of exercise. If you’re not interested in running at all, you can do some basic bodyweight exercises, I have a beginner playlist on youtube, to create a basic workout pick 3-5 exercises and perform them in a circuit format. For example, 8 reps of each exercise, 5 times through. Do that a few times a week and you’ll start building some strength, endurance and confidence that you can then use to start adding in more complicated and strenuous exercises.

My question is how much straight cardio does a person really need per week versus strength training. I am 25 pounds overweight but struggle with breaking the straight cardio idea as the only way to take off extra pounds. I know I need to strength train but is there a balance I need to strike?

IMO, most of our cardio needs can be met through strength training and HIIT, so if you don’t want to do dedicated cardio you have my permission not to. Weight loss is all about maintaining a calorie deficit, and cardio’s only role in that regard is burning more calories so you have a larger deficit and/or can eat more. If you really enjoy cardio, do as much as you like but make sure you’re eating enough to support your activity! Keep your calorie deficit between 300 and 1000 calories, anything more than that and your body may start burning muscle. I wrote a little more about cardio here.

I’m going to be working out right after work, but before dinner. Any suggestions as to what I need to eat afterwards?

Just eat a regular balanced meal. If you’re not going to be able to sit down for a meal within an hour, have a small snack post exercise, something with carbs and protein, and around 100-200 calories, to hold you over until you can eat. If I don’t have a meal of real food handy post workout I usually eat a Larabar or a piece of fruit with some nuts.

Thoughts on Mesomorph/Endomorph/Ectomorph body types and the differing diet/exercise combination recommendations for each?

Meh. The body types are an entertaining way of putting us in boxes. I don’t know anyone who fits perfectly into one of those categories. It’s more important to find a form of exercise that you enjoy! My body is perfectly suited for swimming, and it’s true that I excel in the water. My long limbs and torso are a handicap in the weight room, but lifting is what I love. I’ll never be an elite lifter, but my enjoyment of the sport is what keeps me engaged. Find what you love and keep doing it! If your body type is a good match for that activity, all the better, but don’t let a body type/sport mismatch deter you from ANYTHING that you find enjoyable!

What are your thoughts on the frequency of when you should eat?

Eat when works for you. If many small meals works for you, go for it. If you prefer to eat a few large meals, do that. I do both, depending on what my schedule looks like. As long as you’re getting enough calories and meeting all your nutrient requirements, when you eat is pretty irrelevant. The same is true for eating at night. Weight loss/gain is about calories, not timing.

How do you determine your correct caloric intake for weight loss? How do you know if you’re eating to much or not enough when you hit a plateau?
Michi’s Ladder- have you heard of it and what are your thoughts?

I use this calorie calculator to get an approximate calorie target for clients based on their weight, gender, activity and goals. Once we have that approximation, it’s a matter of trial and error to find the sweet spot, which is generally within a few hundred caloreis in either directing of the target the calculator gives us. If you’ve been eating a good, healthy amount of food and hit a plateau, it likely means that you’ve reached the weight that calorie intake supports and you will have to drop your calories a little to continue losing. If you’ve been undereating, you’ll likely experience symptoms like fatigue, depression, compulsive thoughts about food, etc that will clue you in that you need more fuel.

The kinds of calories you choose can be important, for more discussion on that click here.

I have heard of Michi’s Ladder and it sounds like a pretty healthy way to eat. If the structure works for you, go with it!

What do you say to yourself when you absolutely do not want to get off of your butt and workout?

It depends! If I’ve been working hard in the gym the last few days, I listen to my body and give it a rest. If I’ve been slacking off and am just suffering from stagnation, I tell myself I only have to do 5 minutes, but I HAVE TO DO IT. Once I get started I almost always get into the groove and get a good workout in.

a) How many meals per day do I need to eat in order to speed up my metabolism? 3, 3 and snacks, 5, every three hours? b) Is it ok to drink coffee/tea right after meal or you have to wait for an hour? c) How soon you should eat after cardio/weightlifting/bootcamp class and what should you eat? d) Can you eat late? If yes, what foods are okay before the bed?

a.) See my answer to the meal frequency question above. πŸ™‚
b.) Drinking coffee or tea may block absorption of some nutrients, so use your judgement here. Is the pleasure you get from the beverage worth potentially missing out on some nutrition? It’s ok to say yes. πŸ™‚
c.) See my answer to the post workout meal/snack question above. πŸ™‚
d.) Yes, you can eat late, as long as it fits into your calorie allotment. I almost always have a bedtime snack, usually either fruit or a spoonful or two of nut butter. If you want to get more hard core about it, you can check your food log for the day and see what nutrients you may be running short on and have a snack that contains those nutrients.


What would be your recommendations regarding spine problems and working out/lifting weights? Esp when having scoliosis.

Go slow, listen to your body, and focus on form. Hiring a reputable trainer to help you with form may be a good idea here. I have several clients with back issues who have been able to incorporate weight lifting into their routines, the key is knowing your specific limitations and working with them. You may not be able to do every lift, but you will definitely be able to do some, and those should be the foundation of your lifting routine. As you build strength and stability, you may even find that you can do things you thought were beyond your capabilities!

Is it necessary to gain fat when trying to gain lean muscle mass? Does it HAVE to be gain weight (muscle and fat), buy new clothes, shed the fat, buy more new clothes? lol Does it have to be that cyclical?

Absolutely not. You can achieve body recomposition without large weight fluctuations. Gaining and losing weight works a little faster, though. I’ve never had to buy a new wardrobe, I usually only gain 5-10 pounds during my ‘bulking’ phase, so my body size doesn’t change dramatically. Some body builders fluctuate much more, but I think there needs to be a balance for those of us who have real lives, KWIM?

What’s your opinion on Heart rate monitors and their accuracy for determining calorie burn?

I’ve never used one or really felt the need, so I can’t give you an educated answer here. I’ve done just fine determining my calorie burn through trial and error.


I would really like to hear your take on intermittent fasting.

My take on intermittent fasting: it’s really a matter of eating a large amount of food, enough to hold you over until you eat again, and then not eating for some arbitrarily determined ‘fasting’ period. I do that pretty frequently, I call it ‘eating enough food to get me through to my next meal’. I have yet to see science that convinces me there’s enough metabolic benefit to warrant the discomfort, and I’m not at all impressed by the science it’s proponents use to support their theories. As for ‘fasted cardio’ (another fad in the same vein): I’ve seen several studies now that convince me pretty definitively that there’s no metabolic benefit to exercising in a fasted state, and in fact was just reading a study that showed that the subjects that ate before a workout burned more calories and fat during the following 24 hours than the subjects who worked out in a fasted state. All that said, if a person enjoys if either of those two techniques, more power to them.

Have you experienced a confidence boost in other areas of your life because of your lifestyle change?

Yes, taking control of my health has improved virtually every aspect of my life, from my marriage to my career to my relationships with my children. It’s been unexpectedly amazing, to tell you the truth.

Any suggestions on low carb veggie protein foods or meals. I would like to stop using powders. Also thoughts on lifting. Do you do the big three?

Getting ample protein on a veg*n diet is more about adding up all the little bits of protein in the foods you eat than it is about eating protein dense foods. There are not a lot of protein dense plant foods, but if you base your diet on foods that have a higher protein to fat or carb ratio, those little bits add up quickly. You can take a look at my sample meal plans to see how I do this. I have a list of vegetables with higher amounts of protein here. Mainly I focus on limiting foods that are super LOW in protein (like oils and caloric sweetners) so that the protein content in the foods I do eat has a chance to add up to something substantial. Lots of legumes, nuts and seeds, and higher protein vegetable options. Yes, I do do the big three, they are the foundation of my lifting routine. I don’t waste time on isolation exercises like bicep curls and crunches. Squat, press, deadlift. FTW!

What do you think of coffee as a booster? Good or bad for health?

I love coffee. It’s my favorite part of my morning ritual. I’ve seen enough evidence that it has health benefits to totally rationalize my daily 2-3 cups. πŸ˜›

What’s your opinion on sugar if you’re an endurance athlete? I’ve heard numerous things from a sports nutritionist even, that sugar is sugar, whether its from fruit, honey, or real cane sugar. Either way, they all are converted into the same thing & beneficial in endurance athletes. So the nutritionist said.

I basically agree. I like sugar, although I get it from whole fruits as opposed to added sweeteners. I think anyone who is getting enough physical activity can and will do fine with natural sugars. Those who have problems with sugar because of inactivity would be better served by increasing their physical activity than by eliminating fruits from their diet.

Kids & Family: how to get the whole family to eat whole real food if they are seemingly entrenched in a SAD?

One day at a time, one meal at a time, one food at a time. Sudden major changes won’t likely go over well, so ease everyone into it. Also, get them to help with shopping and cooking (and maybe gardening!). Being a part of the food prep process can make the finished product more appealing.

What non-meat protein sources do you recommend? I found the pure protein you recommended, any others? I found a few protein bars locally, but couldn’t seem to find a clean one, and the choices online are so overwhelming! I have a tough time getting enough protein from real food without eating until I think I’m going to puke all day lol (maybe my stomach just gets full too fast?). Also – I constantly see people saying “drink at least 3qts”, do I need to up this due to breast feeding? If so, how much should I be drinking?

Lentils and other legumes, nuts and seeds, and higher protein vegetables are a good place to start. There aren’t many protein bars I recommend, although the Vega ones are good in a pinch. I do eat quite a bit, getting ample calories is a good way to ensure you’re getting enough protein! I drink when I’m thirsty, as long as you’re not noticing signs of dehydration it’s totally fine to listen to your body on this one. πŸ˜‰

Click here for part 2.

3 thoughts on “Q and A: Part 1

  1. I’ve read that caffeine can inhibit the absorption of nutrients. Perhaps that is why some people don’t drink coffee or tea around meal time?

  2. Pingback: Reference Page: Go Kaleo | Taper Strength Training

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