Welcome to the fifth 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 April 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.
Is it true that only Carbs/Protein/Fat are what matter in a well-balanced meal? I had a meal plan developed for me from what I thought was a reputable place, and it turns out that in a week span I wasn’t consuming hardly any fruits or vegetables. When I questioned this, I was informed they weren’t concerned with the food you I was/or wasn’t consuming but ensuring that I was only consuming the amount of calories not over or under which was laid out in my plan. I found the response alarming, and want to know if fruits & veggies are no longer a staple in healthy eating.
Carrie from Sault Ste. Marie
If the place you went to suggested that fruits and vegetables were not that important to consume then I would question their reputation. You definitely want a good ratio of carbs, protein and fat but not in just any form. These macronutrients come in both good and bad items. Example (potatoes – a carb). Yams are very healthy for you but French fries are not. The key is nutrient density. You want the most vitamins and minerals for the calories you intake. Vegetables and fruit tend to be some of the best choices..
I’m just curious to know, if my body fat percent reads 35%, how unhealthy is that? I know for my age, 24, between 21-25% is considered healthy.
I currently work out at least 5 times a week for an hour, my eating could improve, but how long is a reasonable time to bring it down 10%?
Lea from Toronto
For women yes 21-25% is considered healthy. Once you get into the high 20s plus you develop risk factors for diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Use a DEXA Scan to measure fat percentage. The length of time to bring your fat down by 10% depends on how much fat you have to start with. 10% of 200lb is a 20lb loss, 10% of 150lb is a 15lb loss. Generally a one to two pound drop per week is doable for most people.
Is a program of 1-1 1/2 hours of walking (working up to 4 miles an hour) and 1 hour of pilates an effective weight loss and toning program?
Krista from Dartmouth
The benefit of your program to you really depends on your present level of fitness and how much it stresses or challenges you. For some people a 4mph walk for 90min is very hard for others it is easy. You should be working close to 85% of your maximum heart rate for the most benefit. Pilates can strengthen and help with weight loss if again the program is challenging for you. It all depends on relative intensity.
First of all congrats on the great work on Xweighted – like so many others I am hooked on the show.. I seem to be someone who has a really hard time building muscle and tend to hold on to to fat despite strong efforts. I’ve tried different training techniques; one body part per week, splitting between upper and lower body twice a week each but for some reason the muscle doesn’t grow. I know it sounds silly and probably vain but I would kill to have a physique like Kelly Ripa – do you have any suggestions on the best way and training style to really help me along with muscle growth. I would like to add that I usually use heavy weights and not the sissy ones… and I eat pretty well.
Jennifer from Ottawa
Thanks for watching. The key to muscle building is to first eat properly. Try taking in about 1.2gms of protein per kg of body weight. Always aim for a good post workout protein/carb combo meal.
Make sure you sleep eight hours per night to help recovery. Focus on big compound movment like squats, deadlifts, over head presses and lunges. Pick a heavy enough weight to achieve muscular failure in perfect form around the 8-12 rep range. Aim for 3 to 4 sets per movement. A good volume of work would be about 8 exercises in a workout.
I have set a goal to run my first 5k race. I have worked my way up to doing the distance but I’m still really slow! I hear that interval /speed work is the next step. If this is the case and you agree, what is the best way to tackle this? Also, I have been reading from a number of sources that say when doing long runs, I should be doing cycles of running for 10 minutes then walking/recovery for 1 minute. Do you agree with this?
Brenda from Cambridge
The 10min run with one minute walk is a good idea. I ran my last half marathon doing this and ran one of my best times 1:32:53. The one minute walk helps your muscles catch up on eliminating a build up of waste products in the blood and muscle. It provides a good opportunity to intake your water. Plus it breaks up the race into segments much like doing intervals. I find the distance mentally easier to do. In my half I essentially did about 8-9 intervals at the pace I ran. When doing intervals for your first 5km run try running 200 meters at a pace a bit faster than you plan to run your race (about 5-10%) faster. Recover for the same distance at a comfortable jog. Repeat for 6-12 intervals.
I have a fitness goal in mind. It’s kind of crazy for a 43 yr old mom of two — I have a chance to try and join the military but I need to pass the physical fitness test. I talked to a recruiter and they do want someone in my trade and age is not an issue. I am absolutely sure I cannot at this time- but can do some of it. I am 5’3″ 216 lbs (down from 257 Yeah me!)
I have some other health issues- mild crohn’s, some arthritis and am recovering from a few vitamin deficiencies.
I think I need help to reach this goal, but am very scared to ask as I am sure people will think I am nuts.
Kelly from Edmonton
It’s never too late to try anything different or a bit crazy. Find out exactly what the physical fitness test is. Take this information and do a consultation with a qualified trainer. They can design a program to help you pass it. I would see a dietician for your dietary dysfunctions. Some healthy weight loss will definitely help your performance.
I’m looking to put in a home gym and will have free weights and room for one piece of aerobic equipment. I know from watching your show that you’re not a fan of elliptical trainers. What do you think of the Nordic Track incline treadmills? What type of equipment would you recommend?
Donna from San Diego, California
If you are going to set up a home gym I recommend not buying a cardio piece of equipment, save the dough they are expensive. If you buy a stability ball, dumbbells, a bosu, medicine balls, stuff like this that are much cheaper you can literally do thousands of exercises. If you link these movements together in a 10-15 minute exercise grouping and do them one after the other without rest you will train your cardio system very effectively. You just need to see a trainer to set up a workout specific for you. Cardio machines are the biggest scam going in the industry. See my article in the article archives.
My sister-in-law Jennifer is a huge fan. We both watch your show for inspiration. We have both made some fitness gains in the last few years. I still have more to go.
She is running in her first half marathon in the Manitoba Marathon in Winnipeg, MB on June 20, 2010. Would you be able to join her in her 1/2 marathon run?
Eveyln from Winnipeg
I will run with her if you both come do the Bow 80 mountain bike race with me in September. Ha
Love your website and TV show. I am a 58 year-old woman who is 5’6″ tall and weighs 155 pounds. I don’t feel fat but my BMI is in the overweight range. I’d like to lose about 15 pounds but my body just won’t cooperate. I’ve been a member of fitness clubs for 20 years and go five days a week. I do cardio and weight machines. I’ve pretty much weighed the same amount for the past 15 years. I’d like to weigh what I did in college – around 138-140. Any advice on how to take off the last 15 pounds short of a controlled starvation diet? My diet is very clean – around 1400 calories per day.
Jenny from Boston, Massachusetts
If your eating is already clean then you need to focus on exercise and daily active living. Little things like taking stairs or doing yard and housework more often add up to some big numbers long term. For example if you climbed 3 flights of stairs above and beyond what you normally do, that can add up to 5-6lbs of fat loss in a year.
For exercise I would focus on doing some interval training. This is high intensity exercise broken up with periods of recovery. I would see a trainer about this. Plus I would get off the weight training machines and do functional free weight training. Full body movements with a good load will help prevent bone loss, build muscle and keep you functional. This type of exercise also burns more calories than sitting and lying down on supported pieces of equipment
I have thinning cartilage in one of my knees. My doctor recommended exercises with less knee movement and more upper-body work. What exercises could you recommend for me?
Bev from Maine
If you do not use your knees then you will lose function in the joint and other parts of your body will have to compensate taking on more stress. I recommend doing some knee bending exercises such as squats, which is weight bearing. Some knee bending movements that are not weight bearing which will get movement and blood flow to the area without the stress of load.
I would also try isometric one leg balancing exercises, which build stability in the joint without the stress of movement. Because you have discomfort in one area of the body do not take the easy way out and avoid any training of your knee joints. There is lots you can still do. Use pain as a guideline. If it hurts don’t do it but communicate to a trainer what is and what is not working for you
My question is very simple. What would you bluntly tell me next time I reach for a sugary treat? I’m not talking about balancing my diet and stuff. I am very motivated to exercise and in good shape but have no will when come to sugar.
Thanks Paul. You’ve been my fave!!!
Lien from Toronto
It is not a big deal to treat yourself when you truly desire it. The key is to not make it a habit or over indulge. Most times people keep eating sugar even after the craving has been dealt with. Pick something you truly enjoy and have a small portion of it. I normally tell people to enjoy a 100 calorie treat every second day. You are less likely to binge by allowing yourself some reward every once in awhile.
If you are just chowing down on chocolate without any care then I would say “ stop being a weak pig and get control of yourself” Ha.
I have been on every weight loss plan from Dr. Bernstein to Weight Watchers. I have managed to drop alot of weight but I am having trouble getting the rest off.
My question is why has it stopped coming off? I still have plenty to go.
Lorna from Calgary
I do know that the Bernstein method destroys people’s metabolism. Starving yourself on their plan causes a slow down in your body making fat storage easier and fat removal more difficult. The key for you is to teach your body to slowly accept more food volume without gaining weight. Three tips:
- Eat high nutrient dense foods in moderate quantities.
- Lift heavy weights three times per week using your body, free weights and multi joint movements.
Try to do high intensity interval training three times per week and focus on 2hrs daily of moderate intensity active living chores.
I love your show. You give honest, practical advice. You’re a great motivator for me to try to stay in shape…
My question. I generally do cardio but do lift weights about 3 times per week. All upper body. I do shoulder presses, bicep curls, women’s pushups, lat pull down, cable row machine and a few triceps exercises. My elbows hurt, especially when doing bicep curls with 12.5lb – 15lb weights. I am a 48 yr old female and have been lifting some weights for just over a year. What am I doing wrong to cause pain in the inside part of the elbow?
Thanks so much
Susan from Brampton
The pain in your elbow is usually caused by a problem somewhere else on your body. Maybe your wrists from excessive pronation typing or maybe from your shoulders from poor posture or excessive internal rotation. Have a qualified trainer assess your posture and provide you with corrective exercises and stretches.
In the meantime try doing your bicep curls in a neutral grip position also called a “hammer curl”. Meaning, do not rotate your hands so your palms are facing you. Keep them facing the sides of your body while bending your elbow joint.
I am almost 32 years old and have an active lifestyle. I’m 5’3 and 110lbs and like the look of my body EXCEPT I have “fat armpits”. I’m getting married in 5 months and have a strapless dress and would like to get rid of my “fat armpits” before the date. Could you recommend a few exercises that would target the area and help me get rid of them?
Audrey from Calgary
Since you are already at a good weight and just want some spot reduction your only option is liposuction. There are no exercises you can do to remove fat off specific parts of your body.
I started an exercising and eating regime mid-January. Weighing at 188.8 pounds at 5’8″ (start). As of now, I’m 163 pounds but I’ve been stuck for almost 3 weeks with this weight and I really want to make it to 145 to 150. I’ve plateaued big time and I started jogging longer and making my exercises longer this past week. I guess my question to you is what can I do to make over it over this stumbling block?
Stephanie from Warman
Great job so far on the weight loss.
The first thing to look at is your eating. Are there any non-nutrient benefitting foods your consuming that you can eliminate from your diet?
Second try focusing on exercising with more intensity rather than longer duration. Intensity has a two-fold benefit. You get an EPOC effect (excess post oxygen consumption). After you are done working out you burn calories for an extended period of time returning to everyday life activities. The other benefit is you will become fit. The fittest people on the planet workout hard not long. Added fitness creates cellular changes in your body that makes you a better calorie burner.