Fitness Tips and Fables

By Gigi Amurao

Gigi Amurao

As a fitness professional, I’m constantly being asked questions, many which are pretty crazy and that anyone with a little common sense can figure out. Other questions are more complex, and the answers can differ, depending on whom you ask. Here’s my take on a few that seem to come my way daily.

1) Why does the scale show that I’m heavier, yet my body fat is lower and my clothes are looser? Am I making progress or just getting fatter?

I’m not one to go by the scale when it comes to losing weight. How you feel and whether your clothes are fitting more loosely is a better gauge of your progress.

What you’re experiencing is very common when people first start a weight-loss program. In simple terms, when you weight train, your muscles need glycogen (carbs) in order to fuel the effort, and when you first start training, they will use and store more glycogen, which in turn ups the number on the scale.

A new exercise program also puts stress on your muscle fibers, which causes small micro tears, and inflammation to the muscle, and your body responds by retaining fluids in the area to try to heal it. Over time, the water retention subsides; however, you will most likely experience delayed onset muscle soreness DOMS, within 24 to 36 hours after exercising. It’s all part of your body’s natural response to those muscle micro tears.

Your hydration level affects your weight on the scale, and as for your clothes fitting more loosely, remember that fat takes up three times the space of its equivalent weight in muscle.

My suggestion is to relax and not keep getting on the scale like a maniac. Continue to follow your program—eat properly, train consistently, and be sure to stretch.

2) Is it okay to work out every day?

You can do it, but I don’t recommend it. Your body needs rest; that’s when your muscles repair themselves and grow. Rest gives you the energy and endurance to power though your workouts. When you’re sleep deprived, it leads decreased performance in the gym. It also leads to poor food choices.

3) I love carbs, and I can’t live without them. Can I still eat carbohydrates and lose weight?

Carbs are not the problem; portion control is the problem. So the answer is not to cut out carbs altogether but to eat them in moderation. Most people love breads, pasta, pizza and other starchy-carb foods. The problem is that we eat more carbs than we burn.

Keep your portions in check, and make use of equivalent exchanges. For example, if you’re going to have a cup of rice at dinner, skip the dinner roll. Also try to eat your carbs early in the day or around the time you train, when they can be used and burned off readily.

4) Can I lose fat by just doing cardio?

You can, but, again, I don’t suggest it. Doing too much cardio plus deficit eating is a formula for disaster. Sure, cardio is great for your cardiovascular health—but not if it eats away at your hard-earned muscle.

In order to maximize your caloric burn, even at rest, you must have muscle, a.k.a, lean mass. The more muscle you have, the more your body burns fat at rest; so the goal over time is to build muscle as you lose fat. If you enjoy cardio, that’s fine. Just don’t overdo it.

5) What’s the best way to exercise to lose fat?

This is a tough one, as the answer isn’t clear-cut. Although there are numerous methods of losing weight, there is no “best way.” Everyone will respond to a training regimen differently. Here are some points to keep in mind when you’re trying to losing fat and gain lean mass with exercise.

Daily activities as well as exercises that are weight bearing and use multiple muscle groups burn more calories per minute than other activities.

HIIT (High Intensity Interval training) can be a key tool. The body burns the fat from adipose tissue in the hours after you exercise, and the duration and intensity of that depends on your workout intensity. A good HIIT workout that combines cardio and strength training will increase and extend your postworkout fat burning.

6) If I want to lose the extra fat around my stomach, can I just do ab exercises?

Nope. Ab work is great for strengthening your core and building the abdominals and lower-back muscles, but there is no such thing as spot-reducing fat. As the saying goes, abs are made in the kitchen. Having a well-rounded cardiovascular and strength-training regimen coupled with a portion-control diet that you follow consistently is the key to losing belly fat and showing that six-pack.

The best advice I can give you as you navigate your fitness journey is to always ask questions. There are no stupid questions, and knowledge is power. The more you know, the more successful you will be in reaching your goal of a fit and fabulous you.

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