Welcome to another edition of "Ask Paul," where I answer a few of the questions I receive on the site. I get literally hundreds of questions from people all over the world, and a lot of them follow a pretty common theme. I've picked quite a few from the last few months and done my best to provide people with some insight.
If you have a question for me, click here and fill out my online form. I can't answer them all, but I'll try my best to get to yours.
I've had two spinal fusions — one in 2004 and one just recently — Nov 2009. I am fused from L2 – S1. I'm home recovering for three months and my surgeon advises only walking at this stage. In a month, I will begin physiotherapy. I am told that any exercise during or after that, should not have any impact. My surgeon recommended swimming and he feels an elliptical machine would not be good for my back. Realistically speaking, I know I cannot get to a pool on a regular basis so what would you recommend in addition to swimming? I was not given any other options to try.
Michele from Winnipeg
Your best bet is to get a trainer to design a program specific to your orthopedic limitations. They need to assess what you can and cannot do. Once that is identified they can set up a workout program for you. Check back with them once per month to get the program update as your body improves and adapts to the workload. There are thousands of exercises out there. I am sure there are some perfect for you.
I have been going to school and taking a course on heath. I have learned some very important things, things I never knew. Our teacher told us how to break down our total calories per day. She told us that a sedentary person (me due to back injury) should only eat between 10–15% of total calories of protein, 40–60% carbs and less than 30% fat. I subscribed to your Get Ripped eating plan which was helping a heck of a lot until I got hurt, and I would love your opinion. Fifteen per cent protein seems very low... is that correct?
Rebecca from Orangeville
I find the best ratio of all the macro nutrients is 20-25% protein, 20-25%fat and around 50%carbs.
Does metabolism actually play a big role in how healthy you are?
Alycia from Calgary
Metabolism does not necessarily measure health; it measures how many calories your body expends at rest.
Fitter people generally have a higher metabolic rate. This does make it easier for a person to maintain healthier body fat levels.
My daughter says I have a crush on you, because I keep watching your repeats over and over again. She may be right, I think you're terrific and I love the frankness about you that you give to clients.
I have been struggling to lose the last 10-15 pounds for the last year. I'm doing everything right, but then again if I was, I would have lost it by now...
Anyways, could you please help me? My ex-boyfriend and I said goodbye to each other three years ago and I need to feel good again about me.
I feel very undesirable and unattractive, and I know this is not a good thing. I want to be my jolly and happy self again starting now , so that 2010 will be the best year ever!
I am 5'5" and weigh 156 lbs. I am 49 years old. I have always been confortable at 140-145 lbs. Could you PLEASE help me Paul? You are my inspiration and my hope to be me again, I miss me.
Pam from Mississauga
Thanks for watching the show — love you too!
The research shows that people underestimate how well they eat and overestimate how intense they exercise. I recommend hanging out with people who are fitter than you. They will push you to be better than you are. You have to go out of your way to find a fitness group to hang out with.
I am 51, relatively active, maintain a healthy weight and eat properly. However, I find as I'm aging that my middle area (core?) is thickening. As I was doing crunches and sit-ups at the gym recently, a tiny, energetic young trainer bounced over to me and told me, "You shouldn't be doing any abdominal work until you lose the fat around your midsection, 'cause you'll only make yourself bigger. All that you're doing is building up your muscle underneath fat, you're not losing the fat".
And then she bounced away to deliver some more advice to some unfortunate recipient.
Is this true? I don't just do crunches and sit-ups for my stomach, I find they also help with my back and hip strength, so I don't want to give them up. I also don't want to be making myself "bigger."
This sounds like inaccurate advice... What do you say?
Cathy from Kelowna
Next time tell the bouncy trainer to go and play with her Barbie Doll.
Abdominal muscle will build slightly with increased load, but this is a good thing. I recommend that you never do sit-ups or crunches again. Any lying down exercise is not functional in training your abs. Your abs stabilize your spine in an upright position. Since we are a species that has two feet and function against gravity we should be training our torso in an upright position.
Lying on your back is lazy and only isolates the upper superficial fibers of muscle in your abs. Get a trainer who knows about functional core training. When you train your abs upright and integrate them with leg exercises like a “stationary lunge with horizontal cable twist” you burn quite a bit of fat because the movements are exhausting to do.
I was fit and had the nice flat stomach. Now at a desk job and over 40, it is less then it was. Is it possible as you age to keep the flat stomach with lots of crunches or are we at the mercy of mother nature?
Traci from Vancouver
Basically, we are at the mercy of Mother Nature. She will eventually win the war but you can beat her in many battles for a long period of time. It just becomes harder as we age. If you want to be lean and fit in your 40s, 50s and 60s and beyond your focus on clean eating, consistent exercise and intensity in your exercise must be kept up.
My 11 year old son has been diagnosed with flat feet. He experiences a lot of pain when he runs or walks so we tend to avoid these activities. He loves swimming but he is starting to gain some unwanted inches and he doesn't like being seen in a bathing suit. Can you recommend some good cardio activities I can do with him to burn calories fast and have fun that don't cost a lot and will be easy on his feet?
Nancy from Hamilton
I would have your son train in his bare feet at home. By doing one-leg balancing exercises, you can train the muscles in the arch of the foot and strengthen them to develop the arch.
I would also buy a stability ball. You can do many exercises that are feet friendly that train the entire body. Just link about 8-10 movements together and have him do them one after the other with no rest. He will get a great cardio workout. You may need a professional to pick out some good movements for him.
Huge Fan, love your no BS approach to working out. 🙂
I've been battling with my weight my entire life but in the last few years have taken ownership of my own situation: I am the way I am because I wasn't doing anything about it before.
I train like an athlete in the gym. Which is more effective when doing cardio: pushing your hardest for a set time period, or doing intervals of one minute on (hard/high intensity) and 1 minute off (slow/low intensity) for the same set time period?
Brandyn from Whitehorse
Thanks for watching X-Weighted.
Interval training is a great way to get fit. You have many variables that you can manipulate: length of interval, number of intervals, length of rest between intervals, intensity of the interval, intensity of the recovery between intervals.
Try hiring a trainer that specializes in aerobic and anaerobic training. Or you can increase the intensity of your interval training by changing one of the variables every workout as you get fitter. Check out www.aerobicpower.com. They are pros for what you want to do.
I am a 50 year old female who had total knee replacement surgery in March 2009.
My question is about lunges & step ups. Do you think they are safe for me to do?
The only thing my ortho surgeon has told me not to do is kneel.
Katherine from Mitchell
I would see a trainer who specializes in kinetic chain assessments. They can determine what exercises are best for you to do. Lunges and squats are good to do. There are hundreds of variations and progressions. You just need someone to help you pick the right moves for your current ability. If you feel acute pain in an exercise you should stop doing it.
What is the best way to kick a sugar habit? I've heard of quitting cold turkey by removing simple carbohydrates, sugar, white flour... but easier said than done! Is there a somewhat easy plan to follow? I seem to do OK for two weeks but then I get those darn cravings and fall into them and nothing will make them go away. Any suggestions?
Chantal from Cochrane
Try eating four dark chocolate covered almonds. Less than 100 calories, the nut has protein and health fats, the chocolate has antioxidants and will cure the sugar craving. The key is to not eat more than four.
I fell about a month ago twisting and landing on my knee. I had two surgeries last year and am scared to go to the doctor again. If I did injure my meniscus (it's sore and swollen every day) can I exercise and get it healed without the doctors intervention?
Kaye from Utah
Always nice to hear from the US fans!
I have some meniscus issues myself. Doing quick rotational bending movements can be difficult. Focus on squatting, lunging and step up exercises that your knee can managing in good alignment. Your knee cap should be aligned with your second toe during all exercises.
I had an MRI performed and the orthopedic surgeon said be active with exercises that you can manage without pain. High-impact movement and rotational movement bothers my knee. I pick skating and cross country skiing as exercise choices instead of running. Also see a good trainer to give you proper exercise selection specific to your knee’s ability.
I have to say I love your show, I think you promote a great style of living! I have always enjoyed exercise my whole life. My problem is not my weight but my lack of tone, I am a petite girl with no muscle tone or definition. I was just wondering what I could do to tighten those muscles (and actually SEE results!).
Thanks so much!
Anna from Surrey
First there is no such thing as "tone". Tone is the amount of tension in a muscle at rest. You want to build functional muscle. The best way to do this is full body integrated movements with as much weight as you can handle. Do not be afraid to train heavy. This is the only way to add muscle to your body. Muscle is a good thing. See a trainer who can design a program specific to your fitness level.
I have been doing Crossfit workouts for the past 6 months. The trainer I have been working with also told me to eat a very Paleo diet (super low carb). I have put tons of effort into it but have lost no weight I have actually gained about 2 lbs. I started the journey at 155 lbs and now weight 157 lbs. I am 25 years old and and 5' 3".
I notice my legs are getting bigger, as well as my arms. I am not getting any of the results I want. I want to lose more fat and I do not want to end up looking bigger than I was in the first place. Plus I hate eating paleo — I love fruits and whole grains.
What is your opinion on Crossfit and paleo eating? Do you have any recommendations for my workouts — should I be doing something different? Thanks Paul! I love X-Weighted I have to say it is one of my favorite shows. I also look forward to seeing you speak one day or hopefully meeting you. The ultimate would be to do a workout with you
Laura from Saskatoon
First I am not a fan of low-carb diets. Carbs will not make you fat, just the wrong type and quantity that you eat. It is the preferred energy source for high intensity exercise. If you want to be lean, fit and strong you must eat carbs. Look at potatoes: yams are an excellent nutritious choice, and french fries are a bad choice. Both are a form of carbs, one good, one bad.
Crossfit can be good and bad as well. If done properly, it offers some nice functional body-weight-type exercises people should do. Where the workout program goes wrong is when people post a workout and have any fitness level give it a try. A good Crossfit instructor will know how to do a kinetic chain assessment on you and then guide you to the best movement patterns for your muscular imbalances and fitness level. Also the dozens and dozens of reps of the same exercise they do is extremely boring and unmotivating to do.
I seem to be someone who needs to see full effects of my actions, before I can commit to doing something about it. I think the full body scan would be a huge kick in the butt to me. Do you have any idea where in Nova Scotia that they may do this?
Oh also, for your nutrition plan, do you only do one at the start? Or do you offer another as the person progresses and adds fitness into their regime?
I am 20 lbs overweight and need to get started.
Yvette from Nova Scotia
I am not sure where in Nova Scotia you can get a body fat scan performed. I would try a University or a Health Audit Clinic. Try Googling "DEXA scan" in your area.
The eating plan I offer on my website is designed to be followed for life. You get a chance to manipulate it with my help so that it fits into your life properly. The one thing to consider is that you may have to decrease portion sizes as you get lighter. This is only if you are really big to start with.
Normally I would just recommend to increase daily energy expenditure. The workout plan I offer will do this tremendously.
I am a 35-year-old, overweight single mom. I also work full time.
Three friends and i are training to walk a half-marathon in Vancouver in May. We have been doing our own training walks during the week, and then meeting on a saturday to do a higher milage walk. For example, this past Saturday we did five miles, and next week we will do six. We are all moms, and two of us work full-time, so this is truly as much effort as we can give at this point.
We are looking for some training tips as well as some advice for race day, and the days leading up to race day. Is this enough training? Should we do the full 13.1 miles as part of our training? at this point we have 14 weeks until the race. We are all looking to reach this fitness goal as well as lose some weight along the way!
Thanks for your time and i hope to hear from you!
Aylisa from Fort Saskatchewan
I recommend going to my business partner’s website www.aerobicpower.com. Kevin Masters is awesome at helping people run faster.
The key is to get a kinetic chain assessment and run gait analysis. You need to identify any muscular imbalances that may exist on your body. Stretching the tight muscles and strengthening the weak muscles in balance will you run faster with less chance of injury.
Most people do not know how to run properly. Having your gait analyzed and getting the correct tips like foot position, stride frequency and length will help you run faster without having to get fitter.
I watch you on X-Weighted and I am really excited about joining the 2010 Challenge.
Here's is my problem: I can work out 1 to 1.5 hours a day, eat properly (5 mini meals) weighing and measuring, but week one shows zero weight loss and a small inch loss instead. I know I shouldn't be discouraged but I am.
I have done enough weight and exercise plans that I am totally confused.
Exactly what is the best way to work out for weight loss. Is it walking, cardio, strength, weight or all of the above?
Liz from Calgary
If you are already eating perfectly then the key is to teach your body to accept more food slowly. This will increase your metabolism. The five mini meals per day is good as long as your choice of food is proper. Give this more time and consistency.
Any exercise that is long and hard will expend energy. The key is whether or not the activity you are doing hard for you.
I recommend functional free weight training two to three times per week. Any cardio type activity you enjoy, except cardio machines, three to four times per week and playing a high intensity sport once or twice per week. As you get lighter and fitter you must increase the intensity of everything you do if you want more improvements. Most people do not train hard enough to make fitness gains.
I was the Saint John kick-off and was to shy to ask a question, and was to scared to talk to you. In May 2009 I weighed 340 lbs and I have lost 80 lbs on my own. But I have hit a plateau for the past two months and finding it hard to break it. Can you give me any suggestions?
The challenge says that I need to lose 71 pounds, I think this goal in 6 months is a large number but I am dedicated to making this happen.
I have other reason for needing to lose weight: my mom needs a kidney and they will not even test me because my BMI is too high. I have NO room for failure. Can you give me any suggestions?
Racheal from Saint John
Thanks for coming out to the Saint John event.
I think most people plateau because they keep doing the same thing. As you get lighter, your weight loss will slow down. The key is to increase how much energy you expend.
First, lifestyle energy increase: get a pedometer and measure how many steps you take. As you get lighter keep increasing your steps.
Second, exercise energy increase: you MUST either increase exercise duration or intensity. Preferably intensity because this will make you more fit. Keep a log of what you do in your exercise choice. Go longer and harder as you get lighter.