Many of these questions may seem silly to you, and the answers to them may seem like common knowledge. However, they are indeed frequently asked, and frequently answered.
1. What's the best way to lose body fat?
A Clean diet (including plenty of water), exercise, and rest.
Cliché, I know. Some of you may have heard that nutrition is 80% of the battle. While nutrition is very important, that statement will relate to people in different ways depending on the goal and the activity of choice. For example, if you are trying to build a large amount of muscle, you may be advised to eat much more food than you are accustomed to. That’s because in order for muscles to substantially grow, we often need more protein than the average person. The food, paired with an effective strength building program, will allow you to lose body fat while gaining muscle size.
On the other hand, if a toned look is not your main priority, then you may be advised to consume more or less, depending on your current regimen. Nutrition is very important in losing body fat and in gaining muscle, but ultimately it’s the combination of the right diet and the right program that makes is the most effective. Neither proper diet or the correct training program is more important than the other.
Tip: Never starve yourself. Always put fuel in the machine for best results!
2. How can I get a flat stomach without losing my butt?
Unfortunately, you cannot spot reduce, burning fat in only one area and maintaining it in another. However, you can spot enlarge by adding size to a particular muscle or group of muscles. A body sculptor/body builder focuses on making muscles bigger and smaller in certain body parts, based on their preference. For example, if you want bigger glutes and a smaller waist, that's no problem. You’ll need to get to a very low body fat so that your waist gets small while incorporating heavy-weighted glute exercises with litte-to-no abdominal work in order to create that desired physique.
3. How often do I need to work out? For how long?
Well, that answer depends on the goal. A fitness professional can help you determine a game plan that will meet your individual needs. Regardless of the goal, here are some healthy guidelines to keep in mind:
ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) recommends performing physical activity three to five times per week for 20 to 60 minutes at a time. For a person who was previously sedentary, only three days per week may be needed to improve their fitness, but it will take more exercise to see further improvements. The level of intensity (target heart rate) for this physical activity should be at least 55% to 65% of your maximum heart rate (You can estimate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220). When you are working at lower intensities, opt for more minutes, and vice versa. It is important that you do not progress too soon or exercise excessively, since both behaviors can lead to overuse injuries.
For more specific guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine on progression, intensity, endurance training and more, visit the UCLA Nutrition Education Website.
4. Is it better to work out in the morning or evening?
You can make a case for either time of day, depending on your own status as a morning person, the type of workouts you prefer, and where your other responsibilities drop during the day.
Personally, I have found that I sleep better at night when I exercise in the morning. I seem to stay awake later and have a hard time falling asleep when I work out at night. In addition, I like to enjoy the endorphins and sense of accomplishment throughout the day rather than when it's time to wind down for bed. It’s up to you !
5. Cardio first, or weights first?
You might have heard that weights should be lifted before cardiovascular training to burn the most fat. I admit that I believed that for a long time. That idea was brought about because trainers believed that after depleting the muscles’ glycogen stores (carbohydrates) during strength training, fat would be used as the primary “fuel source” during the cardio portion of the workout. This is considered a positive scenario by many trainers since cardio is typically a non-stop activity where you tend to burn more calories, as opposed to strength training that is accompanied with resting time between sets. However, it's most likely the intensity of the activity (based on heart rate), rather than the activity itself that determines the “fuel” source.
Keep in mind:
If the primary goal is to increase aerobic endurance or lose weight, then you should perform cardiovascular exercise first. If the primary goal is to increase muscular strength, then the client should perform strength training first. Basically, in order to get the most out of the workout, the client should perform the most important type of exercise when he or she is not fatigued. Since many clients want to lose weight as well as increase muscular strength, alternating the order of the workout during different cycles of training is one way to satisfy both goals.