Ask Paul, fourth edition


Welcome to the fourth edition of “Ask Paul,” where I answer a few of the questions I receive on the site. I get literally hundreds of questions every month from people all over the world, and a lot of them follow a pretty common theme. I’ve picked quite a few from March and done my best to provide people with some insight and assistance.

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.



While training a 30-year-old male — I think it was a rerun in January 2010 — you commented he was in the same shape as a 60-year-old male. Does this mean you have trained 60-year-old males? I believe you to be wrong as I am 63 and in better condition then he was.


Arnold from Toronto


Hi Arnold,

Sorry about that. You are right there are some 60-year-olds in fantastic shape. Some seniors are in better shape than people in their 20s or 30s, which is sad to say for the young but a testament to those who stay fit their entire lives.

I not only train people in their 60s but also in the 70 and 80 age group bracket.



I was quite lean a couple of years ago, but ended up gaining a lot of fat for a number of reasons — a few pounds was recommended medically for hormonal reasons, people were criticizing the way I looked saying I was overdoing it, and I hadn’t really learned how to allow myself a meal with friends or a missed workout and move on!

I’m back on track now since the start of January and noticing improvements. I’m watching portions, eating much more vegetables and lean proteins and doing a mixture of aerobic and strength training — mostly circuit type things. I love my circuits and tiring myself out with plenty of lunges and step-ups… even burpees make me feel like I’ve achieved something.

My concern is that I tend to be quite muscular. Do guys really hate that look? I feel like I’d have to just starve myself and live on the elliptical to lose fat without looking like I go to the gym.

Also, asking the impossible: is there any way of encouraging fat loss from the thighs as well? When I did manage to lean out before I had visible veins on my arms but my thighs were still fat (twice as fat according to a DEXA).

Loved the show. Hoping they bring it back over here soon!

Gráinne from Dublin


Hi Gráinne,

I think a lean muscular build looks great on women. Unless females are taking anabolic hormones, they are unlikely to become too muscular. Do not starve yourself… and get off the elliptical. Eating clean and the exercise you are doing will suffice.

Unfortunately, your genetics are to blame for the extra fat on the thighs. No specific exercise you can do to remove fat off certain areas. Just expend energy intensely and hope it comes off the areas you want.




I got married two years ago and weighed 138 lbs, the next year I dropped 10 lbs by diet alone and then this year I started exercising 5–6 days a week, and totally cut out sugar, my weight has gone back up.

However, my legs are slimmer, and the belly fat has gone, so can you please tell me if this is normal? Or am I still doing something wrong? I mean everybody likes the scale to tell them that they are doing good, but how do I know if I am if the scale stays the same or goes up?

Cathy from Winnipeg


Hi Cathy,

People place too much emphasis on the scale. It does not show you how much muscle tissue you may have gained or lost. Muscle is 18 per cent more dense than fat, so it takes up less room.

Try getting a DEXA body fat scan. If you are under 25 per cent you are doing well.



I am 30 years old, married and have an 11-year-old step-daughter. I am a dietitian, but currently weight 264 lbs. Wow, a dietitian who can’t even eat correctly.

I am wanting change, a new life for me and my family. I watch your show every time it is on and I see how you motivate and want to help people. I am miserable with my current health status. I don’t have any health problems (that I know of) at this time, but having a background in healthcare I know that at my age and weight health problems will plague me soon.

Somedays it is so hard to just get out of bed because I am tired where I don’t work out and frankly I am depressed about my current situation. Do you have any advice or encouragement for me?


Jessica from Lexington, Kentucky


Hi Jessica,

A 264 lb dietician… Wow. Believe it or not I have seen it before.

I am curious about what you tell other people to do to lose body fat. Do you think that they would take your advice? For some reason, you do not value your body enough to take care of it. You need to find the underlying reason for this. I can give you a hint. Most times it has to do with fear of some kind.

Right now you are probably not doing anything that tests your body’s limitations. This allows you to learn to accept your weight. If you just sit in front of the television all the time eating you do not need to be fit for that.

Challenge yourself physically in some way. Maybe the shock of your heart rate soaring just from walking around the block might motivate you to want to change.

Next time you see a brand new client, take a good look at their facial expression when they first meet you. If you see shock, confusion or fear use it to motivate change for yourself.



I have had to have surgery on both of my knees. As a result, I am not certain what to do for exercises. I lost almost 100 lbs and have gained almost all of it back as a result of being laid up.

I need guidance in a healthy living plan so I can get back in shape, but not damage my knees again. I have had trainers who have caused more harm than good, even after explaining my condition.

I want to do this so I can keep up with my three boys and put off knee replacement until I am at least out of my 30s. Please help!

Stephanie from Maberly


Hi Stephanie,

Knee issues do cause concern when designing a training program. You need to find a trainer who knows how to assess your function and can properly select movements that are progressive in intensity.

I would start by seeing if you can do a simple body weight squat to a bench and stand up without hand support. If this causes great pain then I would avoid knee bending movements under load until more healing has occurred.

Work the surrounding muscle tissue while bending your knees without load. Lying on your back stability ball hamstring roll-ins are good. Side planks with hip flexion/extension are another option. Realize there are numerous exercises you still can do. You just have to find the right trainer that understands where you are at, what you are capable of and how to progress your fitness without acute and inflammatory type pain.

Keep looking.



Hey Paul,

We all know the cardinal rule of not eating too much close to bedtime. However, my trainer (an ex “muscle man”) keeps urging me to eat a little something before bed. His choice of snack in 100 g fat free yogurt (plain) plus a piece of fruit. His point is that it keeps the metabolism working overnight. Keep in mind he advises this mostly for the days I’ve been weight lifting (which is about four days a week right now)

So, what do you say?


Theresa from Amsterdam


Hi Theresa,

I follow the rule of fueling the body specific to the activity you are about to do. If you are going to sleep you really do not need any calories for that. Your metabolism is supposed to slow down at this time so that your body can de-stress and rest. Focus on eating a good breakfast when you wake up then six times per day approximately every three hours.



How do you overcome craving chocolate? I can resist most desserts but chocolate has a siren call. I have read that magnesium supplements decrease the craving for chocolate… any validity in that?

Is it better to go cold turkey or just factor in a little bit of high-quality chocolate into your food plan?

Jo-Anne from Camrose


Hi Jo-Anne,

Depending on the person you are you can go two ways.

If you cut chocolate out cold turkey then you have to identify a reason for it. I can understand doing it for a period of time to reduce fat levels for a special event or training for something.

The other option is to enjoy some organic dark chocolate covered almonds a little per day. No more than 5 pieces. This way you can enjoy a bit of life’s pleasures. Why remove something that makes us feel so good?

The key is to control the quantity. Eating any more than 5 pieces is a sign of something else missing in your eating plan or life. The chocolate will not solve the problem longer than five minutes.

Immediate gratification is for babies. Deal with the real issues.




I suffer from chronic back and neck pain. I feel I always have to be stretching. I’ve seen doctors, chiropractors (seemed to be the best so far), physio, and massage, and even tried resting until it felt better.

I play hockey four times a week, Pilates twice a week, 3–5 km run 2–3 times a week, and I still suffer. As you can tell it is not debilitating, but more irritating. The mornings are worse, with the pain tapering off as the day goes by.

Should someone still exercise with back pain? And do you have any suggestions?

Darryl from Gander, NL


Hi Darryl,

I myself deal with back pain because of an injury from hockey about 15 years ago. You need to identify the problem. I would get an MRI. Unless you know the exact injury, it is very difficult to develop a plan for healing.

When exercising, the back is involved in any movement to some degree. It amazed me how much my back hurt while I was injured just doing something simple like getting in and out of a car.

The key is to assess what movements you can do without too much pain. If you feel pain your body will compensate by moving away from it. There is an exercise progression model that a good trainer should follow. Start with the following:

  • identify muscular imbalances
  • implement corrective stretches and strengthening exercises
  • core stability
  • muscular endurance
  • muscular strength
  • integrated full body movement patterns
  • power and speed



Hi Paul,

I’m 5’1″ and I weigh around 100 lbs. I do want to build lean muscle and get more definition. I’ve been told in the past by many different trainers that I should do no more than 12 reps per set of exercise. I read an article on the web of questions people were asking you and you talked about when people do weights not to do long reps if you want to build.

I get so confused on what to do. Should I set a limit of how many I’m supposed to be doing? Not too low, but not too high either? My main key is I want to build, but lower my body fat percentage also. I have to say I try to watch all your shows and you’re a real inspiration too so many people.


Lisa from Brampton, ON


Hi Lisa,

The research states that the best repetition range for building muscle is between 8–12. You should pick a weight that you can not lift in perfect form past the 12th rep. If you can not do eight reps then the weight is too heavy.



Hi Paul,

I am 51 years old and do yoga, martial arts and dance. The weight is coming off slowly. I am still overweight, 5’9″ and 208 lbs.

I am moving to a low GI diet. Which is better for you? Butter or margarine? On the show, I see you throw out margarine but not butter?

Second, I exercise and then I am hungry! What do I do with the hunger if I have eaten the requisite amount of snacks? What I do is eat. Oh yes, I am insulin-dependent diabetic for 20 years, no secondaries yet.

Patti from Halifax


If you are trying to lose weight butter and margarine should both be eliminated. Being hungry is not a bad thing. It means you are metabolically active and your body requires fuel, so fuel it with a good healthy snack that is not high in calories.

A great post workout snack is 10 almonds, half a cup of dried fruit, and 175 ml cup of yogurt.



Hi Paul,

First I need to say that your are the first one to say what needs to be said to people with weight problems.

I first started training at 325 lbs with more that 40 per cent body fat at age 27. Even if I was 6’5″ it didn’t matter. I was obese!

Someone heard me complain about my weight and told me straight out to stop eating ice cream and fast food and I would lose the weight. This guy saved my life! Now I’m at 260 lbs and 15 per cent body fat I feel alive.

My wife and I started SWANN fitness seven years ago now with 40+ locations we are helping more than 18,000 women across Québec.

Which brings me to my point: in one of your shows you told a girl who was training at a fitness centre that those kinds of studios were the the worst kind of gyms. If you were talking about studios using hydraulic equipment I would agree with you. But at SWANN we use pneumatic machines made in Canada.

I personally invite you to come and try our 30/30 system for yourself, we have some women who’ve lost 100+ pounds at SWANN. We had fitness experts trying it and they where amazed by the actual intensity of our system.

I would be ready to set you up a location in Canada for you to put your name on after you actually tried it. You could even become our Master Franchisee Western Canada!

Anyway I needed to let you know that the world needs you in it more than doctors!

Thank you

Marc from Terrebonne, Quebec


Hi Marc,

Congrats on your weight loss that is a fantastic change, good for you!

I remember the episode you are talking about. It was with Valencia in Season 2. Yes, I was talking about Curves. The pneumatic machines you are talking about are probably made by Keiser using air as resistance.

The one machine I do like is a functional trainer. It has two arms with handles attached where you can do some great integrated full-body movement patterns. I have a couple at my gym.

The machines I do not like are the ones you sit on or lay down on that try to isolate a single muscle group. The body is not designed to be trained like this. You need to be on your feet with ground reaction force to create movement. This is how human beings function in everyday activities and sports.

Intensity itself is not enough to make up a good training program. The exercises you do must have a purpose specific to the individual’s goal. Weight loss, more function, more energy and less joint pain is the goal of most people. You can’t achieve these goals as efficiently by sitting or lying down on supported machines.


3 replies
  1. Trish Mennell says:

    Hey Paul,

    Why no elliptical? I have an arc trainer…is this bad? I have relied on it for fat loss, in addition to resistance training 3-4x/week.
    At ‘pre contest’ time, I was doing 11hrs of cardio a week…not good? I was so freakin’ slim and cut – it was heaven!

  2. Heather Baxter says:

    Hi Paul. I have been eating 1000 – 1500 calories daily for the past 2 years and have not lost any weight. My meal plan is perfect (you created a diet for me some time ago). Am I missing something? I know of several people that diet and lose weight with no changes to their physical activity. I do not work out aside from walking an hour a day four days per week. Advice?

    Thanks for replying 🙂

    Waterloo, Ontario

  3. Heather says:


    I have been on Weight Watchers on & off for about 8 years. I “sorta” followed the program with little exercise and always bounced around 240-250 lbs, until one day in November 2009 I caught your show. It was kinda like a slap in the face. I always thought that I was dieting and doing the right thing. It made me ask myself “What the heck are you doin, woman?” I was eating all of the WRONG stuff. The very next day I researched “clean eating”. I quit drinking diet soda, I joined my gym, I quit eating things with more than 5 ingredients (and ingredients that I could pronounce)& I changed my thinking. My new motto, “I will never again allow the things that happen in my life cause me to not take care of me.” After my wonderful epiphany I lost a modest 47 lbs in 4 months. I still follow the Weight Watchers points but I DO NOT however “eat whatever I want” like the program boasts. I am currently training for the Race for the Cure 5k in St. Louis MO, June 12th. I would like to dedicate my first 50lb loss to you but the remaining 50lbs is all for me, baby. Thank you for the reality check!!

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