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March 9, 2010
Fat Gain From Power Shake

Question: I purchased a power shake item almost a year ago and drank it for a month before a friend told me to stop drinking it. He said if u drink it and don't do exercise within 1 hour it stores the shake as fat in your body, and obviously give the opposite of the results I want. Any insight if this is true? Because if it isn't, I'm going to drink one for breakfast like you say on your daily eating program. Thanks a lot.

Justin Leonard: The simple answer is that the body does not store fat in the manner you described, nor does it do it as quickly. It is unclear where the 1 hour logic came from. But if that were the case, we'd all be screwed. As long as you are physically active most of the time, you should have nothing to worry about. There is a caveat however: a surplus of calories is what you have to watch out for even if you are physically active. It is very easy to exceed your daily caloric requirements. Anything consumed above and beyond that which your body needs to survive and perform daily functions will invariably get stored as fat. Such a phenomena doesn't take place in just one occurrence. But if sustained, it will cause problems in time. For some, a surplus of 100 calories more than they need per day is contributing to obesity. That's all it takes... basically about one soda per day.


January 11, 2010
Best Post Workout Meal

Question: I hit the gym pretty late in the evening. I've read different articles about eating a good combo of carbs and protein post workout. But I have always had issues with hitting the bed 90 minutes post workout with a stomach full of carbs. What would be ideal to eat post workout considering I workout so late??

Justin Leonard: A combination of carbs and protein are generally recommended (small portions). However, unless you have a specific reason to monitor your substrate (carbs, fats, proteins, etc.) intake post exercise, it's not really important as the body automatically waits for the right time to utilize substrates when they are needed. As long as you are regularly active, there is no need to fear late-night eating. Your body is always burning fuel, mainly in the form of fat, even as you sleep. This process is more efficient with increased physical activity levels coupled with sound nutrition.


July 19, 2009
Weight Loss for Job Requirement

Question: I am five foot eight inches and weigh about 210 lbs. I need to reach a weight of 185 lbs max for a civil service job. Along with cutting back my calories, how much cardio should I be doing per week to reach this goal ASAP? Thank you for you help.

Justin Leonard: You will need a combination of everything: strength training, cardio, and sound nutrition. If there is a deadline involved, you might benefit from two-a-day workouts. For example, cardio in the morning and strength training in the afternoon. It might require a significant time committment, but you can look at it as a temporary sacrifice in order to get the job. Only consider this option if you normally workout. If you generally do not workout, any structured exercise regimen will help.

The most important thing to remember is that anytime you are trying to lose weight, changes in your nutrition program will yield the greatest results. What exercise does is speed up the effects of nutrition modification by increasing energy demands.


November 22, 2008
Pre Workout Supplements: Effective?

Question: I was reading the "Do Supplements Really Work?" article by Justin Leonard and I have a couple of questions. Do pre-workout supplements really work? Am I just better off eating a good solid meal a couple hours before training? Thanks for your time.

Justin Leonard: Some of them definitely work. Take caffeine for example: No one has ever questioned its benefit as a pre-workout supplement. There are a number of supplements that are more effective, faster acting, and more noticeable than pre-workout meals. With said, it is important to note that some people find that a meal with the right combination of nutrients will do the trick. It varies from person to person, but pre-workout supplements definitely work.


November 13, 2008
Super Slow Sit-ups?

Question: Your message mentioned holding each contraction for 10 seconds for each rep. Is this really the correct way to do sit-ups? And please tell me why holding so long is needed. Thank you.

Justin Leonard: To my knowledge, I know of no such recommendation on this website. It is unclear where you saw that passage. On other websites such as absecrets.com, I recommend holding each sit-up/crunch for at least 3 seconds. This is not necessarily the correct way to do sit-ups. The original intent of the sit-up was most likely for it to be a continuous motion. However, exercises performed at slower speeds may be more effective because 1) it minimizes the tendency to use momentum and 2) it engages a greater number of muscle fibers. Thus, by taking more time to do the exercise, it is possible that you will get more out of it. Both fast and slow training have benefits. But I generally like to teach beginning fitness levels to go slow so that they can feel the muscles working.


January 11, 2008
Are Dietary Supplements Needed?

Question: My nutrition teacher and I recently had a discussion about working out. She is a certified dietician and told me if I have a very healthy diet, I don't need to take anything at all. She told me all I need to do is have a great diet and workout, and I will be perfect. She also said that mostly every supplement will harm you in the long run. But then I see every single person who works out taking supplements, and I have no idea what's right and what's wrong. Please help me! Thank you.

Justin Leonard: Your teacher is right. However, it can be argued that those who use supplements tend to live longer. But do they live longer because of the supplements? Or are they generally more health conscious? I agree that many supplements could in fact harm you in the long run.

You mentioned that many of the people you see are taking supplements. For the general population, supplements are often used for aesthetic reasons. Athletes use supplements to recover quicker, get stronger, and boost physical performance. They may also use supplements to improve mental alertness and delay muscle fatigue. Caffeine does both.

Non athletes do not have the same needs. The recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals for an athlete is going to differ considerably than that of a non athlete. Moreover, highly active individuals will lose more vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients from physical activity and/or exercise. They will break down nutrients for fuel much faster than everyone else. Thus, they need more than everyone else. Again, your teacher is correct. Supplements aren't needed. But there are two types of people out there.


August 4, 2007
Transversus Abdominis

Question: I have been shown one exercise to work the transverse abdominals using a long stick layed down my back from my tailbone to my head. This is hard to do without a trainer with me. My question is, are there more exercises that target these muscles that are easier to do by myself without a machine?

Justin Leonard: It is unclear how the technique you described will work the transverse muscle. That is not to say that it is ineffective. The transversus abdominis is basically like a weightlifting belt. Its function is to stabilize the core muscles and internal organ structures that surround the abdomen. Because of its role, it is generally regarded as a breathing muscle. The only way to work it is by creating a stomach vacuum. This can either be done by "sucking" your abs in as far as you can, or by holding your breath and straining while lifting heavy objects (Note: This is referred to as the Valsalva maneuver. It is not recommended).


We're Exercising But Not Losing Weight

Question: Hi Justin. My friend and I have a question. We continue to exercise, but we are finding that we are not losing any weight (still). Also, we continue with crunches, but are finding that we are getting a bulge above our waistline. What are we doing wrong? Any suggestions would help immensely.

Justin Leonard: If your main goal is to lose weight, you must look to solutions other than exercise. Muscle weighs more than fat. So you could in fact gain weight on an exercise program. Statistically, a woman who exercises for 12 weeks will only lose about 5 pounds after fluctuations in weight are averaged out. Men will lose anywhere from 8 to 10. Exercise alone is virtually ineffective for significant weight loss. However, it is extremely effective for health and strength. You will not see a significant reduction in weight until the diet changes consistently. Fat loss on the other hand is a bit different. Right now, you may be experiencing a reduction in total bodyfat while increasing muscle. Total bodyfat also includes visceral fat, which is the type of fat that surrounds the organs and cannot be pinched. This too could result in what appears to be a constant weight without a decrease. But in reality, it's actually a good thing.

The following are my main points:

1. Don't look to exercise alone for weight loss.
2. Consistent diet modification results in the greatest reduction in weight.
3. A combination of diet modification and exercise is best for safe and efficient metabolism regulation.
4. Avoid fad diets. Stick to a regimen you can sustain on a regular basis.


April 7, 2007
Creatine Supplementation

Question: I've worked out off and on for a few years now (prior to that I played a lot of sports). I recently started working out again with the determination to stick to a more regular routine rather than my typical few months on and a few more months off. I decided after doing much research that I wanted to take supplements to aid in my results. I've chosen to take creatine, however, my concern is that I will look swollen or bloated. I've read many sites that caution that as a side effect. I still have a little body fat to lose but I want to start building lean muscle as well (probably what every woman says at one point in her life). Should I be taking creatine or will it be counterproductive towards my goals?

Justin Leonard: Yes, too much creatine could cause a bloating effect, particularly during the so-called creatine "loading phase." The loading phase, in my opinion, is a gimmick concocted by the supplement companies to generate more revenues. It has to do with how much you consume. I do not consider bloating or swelling a side effect. It might be undesired, but different from a side effect, which is usually adverse in nature. Creatine supplementation is usually beneficial to those who use it. Scientific research has shown this to be the case over and over. The key is not to take more than the body needs, for this is what causes the bloating. What some people do is gradually test it using lower doses. If everything appears to be okay, the dose is increased.


Need Help With Weight

Question: Justin, I went down in weight thru the cardio exercise (from 322 to 257) last year. As of last week my new weight is 294, meaning I gained 37 pounds.  I getting back on track with my weight loss plan, but I'm confused on one thing.  What should my caloric intake be?  I hear bodybuilders talk about eating more in order to lose weight, but this seems counter productive to me.  I need to lose the fat, but I know that building lean muscle will help the process by increasing metabolism since muscle burns more calories than fat. What are your suggestions? My current weight is 294 and I have a bmi of 42.2.  My BMR is 2627 and my bodyfat percentage is 41.8%. That fat mass is 123.01. This data is gathered from the TBF-310 Tanita body composition analyzer. Thank you for taking the time to answer my question.

Justin Leonard: Be skeptical when reading advice from bodybuilders. You will hear many bodybuilders saying that you should eat more frequently. This is based on the assumption that the meals are smaller than normal. Also, bodybuilders typically have no problems losing weight due to the amount of lean muscle mass they have. The key is to eat fewer calories than your body needs. It takes a deficit of 3,500 calories in order to lose 1 pound. So according to your BMR (basal metabolic rate) measure of 2,627, you would need to take in no more than 2,127 calories per day. If this is done over the course of 7 days (500 x 7 = 3500), you should drop 1 pound per week.

Another issue we'd have to look at is the accuracy of your BMR measure. The most accurate measure of BMR is done with a metabolic cart. It takes about 10 - 15 minutes to perform. You will have to breathe into a machine that estimates how much fat, protein, and carbs you burn daily. Although I should point out that most BMR measures are fairly close to true BMR. Your bodyfat percentage may also be a bit inaccurate. Tanita bodyfat testers, which use bioelectrical impedence technology, have measurement error. For example, if you are not properly hydrated or are overhydrated, the test will be inaccurate. There are several factors that might throw off the results of a Tanita bodyfat test. As such, there can be up to 3% error with those machines. So essentially, the results of your bodyfat test can technically be as low as 38% or as high as 44%.


Nutrition and Muscle Gain

Question: Is it true that to gain muscle you should eat a LOT? I keep reading things saying that you need 18-20 calories per pound, which would mean I would have to eat about 3,000 calories a day. But I've also saw some website that said this wasn't true and that it'll only make you fat so I don't know what to beleive. Also, should I eat most carbs during the day since I'll be working out at night? And what is the proper percentage of carbs and protein I should eat. Sorry for all the questions but your website seemed the most legit so I decided to ask you. Thanks again!

Justin Leonard: It depends. The body can build muscle with minimal protein. If you simply want to gain weight, the rule is that you must consume 500 calories more per day than your body needs. One pound is equal to 3,500 calories. Over the course of 7 days, the excess of 500 calories should amount to 1 added pound per week. Yes, eating 18 - 20 calories per pound can definitely make you fat, particularly if you don't weigh much to begin with. Conversely, this amount of calories may be ideal for a larger person looking to gain muscle.

Carbohydrate intake will vary depending on your goals. For example, the needs of an Olympic weightlifter are different from that of a marathon runner. The typical diet will always contain more carbs than protein. Most people eat more carbs during the day than at night. The exception is if you work nights. The percentages of most diets look like this: about 55 - 60 percent carbs, about 20 percent protein, about 30 percent fat. With that said, these percentages are not necessarily optimal for athletes. A marathon runner's carb intake can be upwards of 85 percent of total daily calories, with protein making up only 15 percent.


November 5, 2006
Sit-ups: Preparation & Endurance

Question: Hi! I was checking out you website and wanted to know if you can give some advice. I was thinking about taking a law enforcement position and the physical requires that I complete 32 situps in one minute. Could you give some advice on how to properly train (how long and how times per week to be able to reach this goal in the fastest manner as possible)? Your help would be greatly appreciated. Please e-mail me back as soon as possible. THANKS!

Justin Leonard: How many sit-ups can you currently do in one minute? Technically, I would need to know a lot more about your workout history and fitness level. If you are new to working out, the abs will only be able to endure about one or two workouts per week (because of the soreness from lack of conditioning). However, if you are accustomed to working out, you may be able to up the frequency of the workouts to about two to three per week. For now, consider the following: Practice doing the sit-ups using the exact protocol that you will have to do during testing. Perform as many as your body will allow. Once you've built up your resistance to fatigue, try to add more repetitions to ensure you can meet the minimum requirement. In addition, supplementation with protein and creatine may help to improve strength and stamina.


October 21, 2006
Stomach Problem

Question: I'm 6 feet 7 inches, recently startin weight training. I'm now 220lbs, from 196lbs. I take a protein, Pro v60 by Labrada. I notice my belly is gettin kinda big. I try to work on my abs. Can u tell me what I need to do to get my stomach flat while drinkin this protein still to gain weight? Appreciate ur help. Thanks in advance.

Justin Leonard: It sounds like bloating; possibly from the protein supplement. Many contain cheap milk byproducts that might be difficult for the body to break down. Abdominal training alone can increase the size of the ab region in some people. The solution to your problem is really tricky since the exact cause is unknown. You might consider switching protein powders as a test. Also, be sure to take only one scoop (or less) of protein per serving. The body can only digest so much at a time. A surplus of protein, or any nutrient for that matter, will most certainly be stored as fat.


August 24, 2006
ZMA and Tribulus Supplements

Question: Do ZMA and tribulus terrestris really work for bodybuilders?

Justin Leonard: Both ZMA (zinc magnesium aspartate) and tribulus (a plant/herb) supplements claim to boost testosterone production. The following is a link (PDF file) to a study which renders ZMA as pretty much a useless supplement. The researchers in this study found that ZMA had no significant effect on strength or endurance in trained/fit subjects.

Here is a study on tribulus terrestris (PDF file). In this study, scientists administered tribulus to a given number of subjects over a four-week period and found that it had no effect on serum testosterone levels. In a similar study, researchers concluded that tribulus supplementation had no effect on the bodyweight, body composition, strength, or endurance of trained subjects.

I should also point out that although ZMA and tribulus may be ineffective for testosterone production, they have been shown to be useful for other things, including treatment of impotence, hypertension, high cholesterol, and more. Sometimes, zinc and tribulus supplements are comprised of a mixture of other ingredients. This may contribute to noticeable strength and performance gains in some individuals.


August 18, 2006
Liquid Diet

Question: I have currently been on a liquid diet consisting of 1 protein shake and water 8-12 cups per day for about 4 weeks. I have lost numerous pounds, however I still have fat around my stomach and I am exercising everday intensly! Please tell me what I can do to get a 6 pack abs.

Justin Leonard: A liquid diet is also a fad diet. On a liquid diet, you will lose weight fast, mainly muscle. You will also lose some fat. You will quickly gain the weight back when you return to your normal eating habits. The weight loss is primarily attributed to water loss. This is true despite that fact that you are on a "liquid" diet. Let me explain:

A liquid diet will temporarily decrease the size/capacity of the muscles, making them less efficient. Most of the body's water is stored within the muscles. A rapid decrease in lean muscle mass will slow the body's ability to burn fat. We also know that muscle weighs more than fat, which explains the rapid weight loss.

The fat will only burn once the body is in a steady state nutritionally. Unfortunately, on a liquid diet the body thinks it is stranded on an island with insufficient nutrition resources. As a result, it is more likely to hold onto its number one energy source... and that is fat. In order to get a six pack, the first thing you want to do is avoid fad diets, and instead, focus on modifying your normal diet in such a way that allows you to burn fat while retaining muscle. You can find helpful nutrition guidelines at the following website: absecrets.com


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