Welcome to the thirteenth 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 February 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.
How should you negotiate between healthy work outs and damage to your joints. As a morbidly obese person (320 lbs, 53 years old) with arthritis in some of my joints and a hip replacement in one, I am concerned that step-ups, squats etc. may be hurting rather than helping. After 3 months of consistent work (3 times per week) with a personal trainer, I am still in pain.
Sally from Windsor
To improve function in the body you must perform the exercise you specifically want to become better at. I do not suggest giving up on step ups and squats. You just have to find the volume of sets and reps your body can tolerate without excessive pain. You can also reduce the intensity of the movement. Using a smaller step plus having hand support for the squats. Build up your tolerance to the stress and progress to the more challenging movement. You can also compliment the work to your lower body by doing movement patterns that will aid in joint mobility and strength without having to lift your entire body weight. Doing leg swings for the hips and butt. Lying on your back you can do bridges or stability ball roll ins. It may take another 60-70lbs of weight loss before you start noticing a reduction of pain. Try to keep moving but if a movement pattern hurts too much do not do it. Your body will compensate by moving away from the pain and distort your posture. There is always another exercise you can do.
I am fairly fit, 5 foot 1 inch tall and 118 pounds. I exercise 5 times a week training for half marathons, 10k's and so on. I would like to lose about 6 pounds but find it very difficult as I am not significantly overweight but would like to be able to see some killer abs one day! any hints as to how to lose these few difficult pounds? i am not afraid of pain or hard work! PS.. love the show!
Catoriona from Inverness
I am glad you are not afraid of pain or hard work because that is exactly what you will have to go through to drop your last few pounds and see a six pack. You will have to perform workouts that your body has never done before. You will have to train at an intensity your body has never done before. If you impose a demand on your muscles that they are not accustomed too then changes will occur. The key now is what kind of volume, sets, reps, exercises should you be doing. The only way to know this is to hire a trainer for a consultation and have them work with you. You can also try looking into the video exercise library on my website. The last three workouts are extremely intense and only suitable to the fittest of people. See if you can do those exercises.
The age old question of how many calories to eat!
Height 5ft 3
Female age 27
BMR 1558 (so they tell me!)
I've been eating 1400 calories (as i have been told to do) lost 30pounds but now have been at a stand still for 8 months.... I think i should be eating more. I burn anywhere from 500 to 800 calories a day plus my BMR. If I eat 2000 calories, and burn the above would this strike up my weight loss goals again?
Joelle from Nanaimo
Based on the equation I use, I estimated your BMR (basal metabolic rate) to be 1454 calories. Please realize this is only an estimation based upon your weight, height and age. To get a more accurate reading you need to get a metabolic test done with a metabolic cart. Some health audit clinics and Universities have a metabolic cart. To figure out your active metabolic rate AMR, you will have to add the energy you expend in a day. Usually based on the type of job you have, the exercise you do and any specific active hobbies you engage in.
If you want to lose a pound of fat in a week you must expend 3500 calories more than you eat. If you eat 1500 calories a day that equals 10,500 calories in a week. If your AMR is 2000 per day on average, that equals 14,000 calories in a week. When you subtract the two numbers you will have a 3,500 calorie deficit and lose one pound of fat. Realize if your numbers are wrong by just 100 calories per day. In a year that extra 100 calories adds up to a 10lb weight gain. Sick HuH?
How do you feel about energy drinks?
Jennifer from Sydney
I hate energy drinks. The calories and extra chemicals you ingest are completely unnecessary. The temporary energy boost you get from so called “natural” products advertised is just that, temporary. If you lack energy look at the root cause. Are you getting enough sleep? Are you exercising regularly with adequate recovery time? Are you stressed (financially, emotionally, work related, relationship related). Deal with these issues. You can suck back all the energy drinks you want. It is not a long term solution. You spend unnecessary dollars.
What fitness activites do you recommend for a person on disability for chronic pain due to spinal arthritis in both neck and back which impedes walking. I'm not referring to stretching exercises to increase mobility i.e. cdn back institute, rather exercises to improve cardio. Are there any previous episodes where people with health issues have shown their stories?
Cathy from Aurora
First I would avoid repetitive movement patterns. Cardio Machines like the elliptical, bike and rower should be avoided. You do not want to keep repeating the same muscular action thousands of times plus you do not want to be put into a position that is static. I would recommend getting a functional body weight circuit designed for you. You need to move all the muscles in your body in multiple planes of movement and speeds. The movements should focus on range of motion rather than load, should engage many muscles groups rather than isolate them plus be specific to your present fitness level and function. I would recommend to see a qualified trainer and get one designed for you.
Can almond butter be part of a healthy eating plan when losing weight? I follow many health and fitness blogs and see how popular it is. I realize it is a good source of protein, but wonder about the fat/caloric content.
Kobe from Richmond
You notice that I nearly always remove peanut butter from people’s homes. That is because you do not get a large quantity of food for the calories you put into your body. Although almonds are a nice source of fat, if you are trying to lose fat I recommend dumping it. Unless you absolutely can’t live without it, I believe you can get better sources of protein and healthy fats that will satisfy hunger through lean meats such as fish.
I keep hearing that heart rate rather than weight/speed/distance really determines the number of calories burnt during exercise. So here's my question:
There are two 50 year old, 145 lb women who both run 5k in 30 minutes. One of them is still able to talk at the end but the other is struggling.
Assuming that the struggler has the higher heart rate, it she burning more calories? Why?
Thanks in advance!
Millie from Toronto
If the same amount of work is performed in the same time the person who works closer to their maximum fitness level will burn more calories. This because more ATP(energy source) has to be created by the body because of the increased demand for oxygen plus the need for the muscles to contract at a higher rate.
I have a running question. When starting out is it better to run slower for a longer period of time or faster for a shorter time. I have run on and off over the years and would really like to get better at it. I would like to build up my endurance and recovery time.
ps. You gave me a meal plan a few yrs ago and it worked like a charm! 50lbs gone in 6 months. I am a huge fan. Thank You for inspiring so many 🙂
Stacy from Moncton
Your best bet is to run faster for shorter bursts multiple times. Think about doing a fast run for 2-3minutes recovering with a one minute walk break then repeating 10 times. Your total workout will be 30-40min in duration. The benefits are:
- Less up down impact. Long duration runners bounce up and down more where faster runners run horizontally. Less chance of impact injury
- Better cardio improvement because you are training closer to maximum levels.
- More caloric expenditure for the same amount of time as a moderate pace workout.
- More caloric expenditure post workout because of heightened metabolic activity from the high intensity workout.
- Reduced run boredom
- More specific to sports training
- Don’t have to run for 2hrs slowly.
Glad my eating plan worked for you, great job.
Is it better to do MORE reps with less weight or LESS reps with more weight to attain muscle quicker?
Example: 3 sets of 12-15 using 80 Ibs or 3 sets 0f 8-10 using 100 Ibs.
Pat from Moncton
For muscle gain the research shows the optimal range is a weight that causes momentary muscular failure in the 8-12 rep range. If you can do more than 12 reps on lunges the weight is too light. If you can not do 8 reps then it is too heavy.
I check out your blog regularly. Several times I've seen you make a recommendation to find a personal trainer. How do you find a personal trainer? Are there any qualifications to be a personal trainer? What is a fair price range? What should I be asking them? I don't know where to begin.
Dinah from Edmonton
In Canada there is no law about what specific qualifications someone needs to call themselves a personal trainer. Here is what you should look for:
- Do they have liability insurance? How much and with who.
- Do they know how to do a kinetic chain or postural assessment.
- Look for experience training people with the characteristics you possess, ask for references.
- For education look for a degree in kinesiology, physical education, diploma from a technological school specific in personal training.
- Additional upgrades to education from ACSM or NASM or local provincial certifications.
- Look for a personality that you enjoy and can stand being around for an hour.
- Price range can vary from $60 to $75 per hour. Any more and you will have to ask them to justify why they believe they can charge so much.
- I would interview about half a dozen and go with your gut feeling.
Love the show. Like the pain is temporary attitude. I am a 57 year old cancer survivor,with a heart condition.
I feel like I have been given a second chance at life. I don't want to blow it by being a slob. During the time of my sickness approximately 2 years, my weight got as high as 290 lbs. I am just under six ft. tall. I believe the term is morbidly obese.
I have been in remission for about a year. In that time I have been working on cardio, and using dumbbells. My eating habits obviously suck. I am down to 265 lbs. as we speak.
Your show inspires me to carry on. My fitness goals are to drop down to as close to 200 lbs as possible, and live a healthier life style. Any hints or tips would be welcome.
Now that's my story.
Jay from Red Lake
Congratulations on surviving cancer, that is great. I used to think people with weight issues have it easy compared to those battling cancer. You think that being overweight is just a choice someone has made. Cancer is not a choice. I am sure the person sitting in a hospital for 8hrs getting a chemo drip, and puking from the toxicity of the drug would trade that in for 50-100lbs of extra body fat. Since you have experienced both sides you are probably the better expert in understanding who has it tougher. But maybe it is not a matter of who has it more difficult. Maybe it is a matter of how that person deals with adversity. Some things they can control and other things they can’t. Think about the things you can control. If your eating habits “suck” then try to identify why they suck. The key is to find out what your obstacles are then develop strategies to overcome them. For example if your problem is poor food choices at night ask yourself “why do I pick bad food items at night” and “what can I do about this”
- Not have these food items in the house
- Maybe I can get out of the house and reduce my boredom by doing something fun and active.
- Am I hungry at night? If so maybe I can eat more healthy choices earlier in the day so I am not as hungry.
- Am I eating just because of stress. If so what stresses me? What can I do to get rid of the stress?
Realize Jay there are solutions to all problems. You just have to look hard enough, and deal with what you can control.